8 healthcare takeaways from the 2016 State of the Union Address

In his eighth and final State of the Union Address Tuesday evening, President Barack Obama painted his vision for the U.S., touching on some of his biggest successes and regrets from his time in office.

He framed his vision around four major themes: equal opportunity in the new economy, technology and innovation, national security and closing a deepening political divide.

Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) delivered the Republican response.

Here are eight key takeaways on healthcare from President Obama's address and Gov. Haley's rebuttal.

1. President Obama touted the progress made by the Affordable Care Act. The American spirit of optimism, hard work, discovery and innovation is what made healthcare reform possible, he said. "Nearly 18 million have gained coverage so far," President Obama said. "Healthcare inflation has slowed," he added.

2. In her response, Gov. Haley suggested narrow networks and higher premiums and deductibles as negative effects of the ACA. "As [President Obama] enters his final year in office, many Americans are still feeling the squeeze of an economy too weak to raise income levels. We're feeling a crushing national debt, a healthcare plan that has made insurance less affordable and doctors less available, and chaotic unrest in many of our cities," she said.

3. President Obama believes the difficulties of today's economy underscore the importance of basic benefits like Social Security and Medicare. He said it is time to strengthen these programs, not weaken them. For older folks saving for retirement, or someone who loses their job, he said, basic benefits should be available. "That's what the ACA is all about. It's about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when we lose a job, or go back to school, or start that new business, we'll still have coverage," he said.

4. However, he noted the durability of our economy and strong job growth in the past couple of years. "We're in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history. More than 14 million new jobs; the strongest two years of job growth since the '90s; an unemployment rate cut in half," he said, highlighting the auto industry and manufacturing. Healthcare also benefitted from this growth, adding nearly 40,000 jobs in December alone, and adding more jobs in 2015 than the previous two years combined, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

5. President Obama called on the U.S. to reignite its "spirit of innovation" to solve substantial problems, like cancer. He noted Vice President Joe Biden's moonshot initiative to cure cancer, and the work Vice President Biden and Congress have done to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the biggest funding boost in 12 years, as delineated in the spending bill passed in December.

6. He noted the importance of striking a balance between national safety and working with other countries to make global progress, especially in health. "When we help African countries feed their people and care for the sick, that prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores. Right now, we are on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS, and we have the capacity to accomplish the same thing with malaria — something I'll be pushing this Congress to fund this year," President Obama said. He named Ebola and the Trans-Pacific Partnership as successes, despite concerns the trade pact could drive drug prices up.

7. He doesn't anticipate cooperation over healthcare. President Obama named the broken political system as one of the biggest issues facing the U.S. right now. "It's one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better," he said. However, in his speech he also said, "I'm guessing we won't agree on healthcare anytime soon. But there should be other ways both parties can improve economic security."

8. Gov. Haley echoed this sentiment, noting the Republican party staunchly opposes the ACA. "We would end a disastrous healthcare program, and replace it with reforms that lowered costs and actually let you keep your doctor," she said in her response.

See the full SOTU text here.
See Gov. Haley's full response here.

 

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