(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden delivered his second State of the Union address Tuesday night, during which he addressed the administration’s accomplishments and set his agenda heading into the new year.
In front of Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, Biden spoke about issues he wished to take on including gun reform, a billionaire minimum tax and restoring abortion rights across the United States.
Included in his agenda were several key health proposals such as funding for new COVID vaccines and variant-tracking; addressing the fentanyl crisis; lowering insulin costs for Americans; and tackling mental health among youth.
Here’s are some of the health plans Biden said he wants to undertake in 2023:
Capping insulin costs
During his speech, Biden addressed his desire to lower the costs of medication, specifically insulin, for all Americans.
Currently, insulin is capped at $35 per month for seniors on Medicare, but the president wants that extended to those under age 65 who either pay for their own health insurance or receive it through their employer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 37.3 million people are living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes in the U.S. Recently, a study found more than 1 million diabetics in the U.S. are rationing their insulin doses to save money.
“Every day, millions need insulin to control their diabetes so they can stay alive. Insulin has been around for 100 years. It costs drug companies just $10 a vial to make,” Biden said. “But Big Pharma has been unfairly charging people hundreds of dollars — and making record profits.”
A report from the RAND Corporation found that the average American spent more than $98 per unit of insulin in 2018, almost more than any other nation.
“There are millions of other Americans who are not on Medicare, including 200,000 young people with type 1 diabetes who need insulin to save their lives,” Biden said. “Let’s finish the job this time. Let’s cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month for every American who needs it.”
Funding for COVID vaccines and tracking new variants
Biden acknowledged during his speech that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet, although he intends to let the public health emergency declaration expire in May.
More than 400 Americans are still dying from the virus every day, according to CDC data, although this is down from more than 2,400 per day during the height of the omicron wave in winter 2021-22.
The president said it’s important to remember the more than 1 million Americans who’ve died already and “remain vigilant.”
Since passing the American Rescue Plan in March 2021, Congress has refused to provide additional funding for the development of new vaccines and therapeutics, free testing programs and replenishing the national stockpile.
“We still need to monitor dozens of variants and support new vaccines and treatments,” Biden said. “So, Congress needs to fund these efforts and keep America safe.”
Addressing the fentanyl crisis
The U.S. is in the throes of a devastating opioid epidemic, driven by synthetic opioids like fentanyl, and Biden did not shy away from talking about it during his State of the Union address.
Fentanyl is between 50 times and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
In 2021, a record 107,622 Americans died from drug poisoning or overdose, with 66% linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, the Department of Justice said in a press release last year.
Biden addressed a series of steps to squash the smuggling of fentanyl into the U.S., particularly along the southern border.
“Let’s launch a major surge to stop fentanyl production, sale, and trafficking, with more drug detection machines to inspect cargo and stop pills and powder at the border,” Biden said. “Working with couriers like Fed Ex to inspect more packages for drugs. Strong penalties to crack down on fentanyl trafficking.”
Helping youth tackle mental health
Biden also said he will take steps to address mental health among the nation’s youth.
According to an advisory from the U.S. Surgeon General, rates of mental health disorders including anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation are increasing, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not addressing mental health can lead to disability and poor outcomes among youth.
Biden said this includes increasing mental health services at school and protecting children on social media.
“When millions of young people are struggling with bullying, violence, trauma, we owe them greater access to mental health care at school,” he said. “We must finally hold social media companies accountable for the experiment they are running on our children for profit.”
“And it’s time to pass bipartisan legislation to stop Big Tech from collecting personal data on kids and teenagers online, ban targeted advertising to children, and impose stricter limits on the personal data these companies collect on all of us,” Biden continued.
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