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Biden highlights health priorities in ‘unity agenda’ during first State of the Union

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In his first State of the Union Address on March 1, President Joe Biden discussed several health care and research priorities, including the administration’s current COVID-19 response efforts and a four-pronged “unity agenda” of bipartisan health priorities.

In the unity agenda, Biden highlighted what he described as a personal priority to “end cancer as we know it” through the continued efforts of the recently relaunched Cancer Moonshot Initiative. [refer to Washington Highlights, Feb. 4]. On February 25, the AAMC joined nearly 100 organizations in a letter to Congressional Leaders Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris sharing their support for the revived initiative and urging bipartisan support to fund the research infrastructure needed to achieve this goal.

In his speech, the president also urged Congress to pass legislation to fund his proposed Advanced Health Research Projects Agency to advance the administration’s Moonshot Goals of lowering the cancer death rate. by at least 50% over the next 25 years, in addition to accelerating progress. against Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and other health threats.

Biden’s unity agenda also aims to address addiction and the overdose epidemic through increased investments in prevention, treatment, harm reduction and recovery programs, as well as the elimination of the requirement for providers to receive a waiver before prescribing buprenorphine. In 2021, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in both the House and Senate introduced the Addictions Treatment Integration Act of 2021. (HR 1384, S.445) to eliminate the waiver requirement.

The agenda also aims to tackling the country’s mental health crisis. This includes proposals to increase the capacity, diversity and cultural competency of the existing behavioral health workforce, expand access to mental health support through telehealth, invest in researching new treatment models and supporting clinician wellness by signing the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act into law [refer to Washington Highlights, Feb. 25].

The fourth goal of Biden’s unity agenda aims to improve the health of veterans, including policies to support veterans after military environmental exposures, such as fire pits, through research, training of providers, and improving health benefits through the Department of Veterans. The House of Representatives then passed the related Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2021 (HR 3967) by a bipartite vote of 256-174 the 3 of March.

Biden also reflected on the future of the COVID-19 response, announcing a “test to treat” program in which pharmacies will be able to provide antiviral treatments to patients on the spot after a positive COVID-19 test. He added that vaccines against future variants of concern would be delivered within 100 days of their emergence.

In his remarks, the president also announced his intention to seek additional support from Congress to fund treatments, vaccines, rapid tests and masks. On March 2, the Office of Management and Budget formally forwarded the administration’s request for $22.5 billion in additional emergency COVID-19 funding, to be included in the omnibus spending bill lawmakers are negotiating to fund the federal government in fiscal year 2022.

In addition, the White House issued a new national COVID-19 preparedness plan on March 2, providing additional details on four overarching goals the administration is setting “as we move America out of crisis into a time when COVID-19 is not disrupting our daily lives and is something we prevent, protect and treat”.

The speech also mentioned in the speech the president’s recommendations to permanently extend the U.S. bailout enhanced health insurance subsidies to help people save money on health care premiums and make continuing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, as well as including investments in community violence response. programs.

Biden also highlighted the nation’s previous investment of 2% of gross domestic product in research and development and urged Congress to recommit to domestic science and manufacturing by finalizing the “Bipartisan Innovation Act,” also known as the US Innovation and Competition Act passed by the Senate. and the America COMPETES Act passed by the House [refer to Washington Highlights, Feb. 4]. Leaders of both chambers previously pledged to confer the two bills to send a compromise package to Biden’s office, with further work expected in the coming weeks.