Statement attributable to:
George M. Abraham, MD, MPH, MACP, FIDSA
President, American College of Physicians
WASHINGTON, D.C. March 2, 2022 –The American College of Physicians (ACP) was pleased to see a focus how to improve our country’s health care system in President Biden’s State of the Union speech last night. Our health care system has been under unprecedented and unsustainable strain for the last two years. The strain from the COVID-19 pandemic has been layered on top of what was already a dysfunctional system. We need to make improvements and President Biden’s proposals are a step toward advancing many of our health care goals.
Specifically, ACP was glad to see that President Biden’s plans include a strategy to help improve mental and behavioral health care. The workload of internal medicine physicians has increased dramatically over the course of the pandemic, not just from the health impact of COVID-19 infections, but also from an increased number of patients with behavioral health disorders. Efforts to support mental health professionals, to better integrate mental and behavioral health care into primary care settings, expanded access to telehealth services, and improved access for veterans seeking mental health services, are all key to tackling the mental health crisis in this country. ACP especially appreciates the President’s commitment to sign into law the Lorna Breen Act, which will help support physicians and other health care workers who are experiencing mental health issues, another aspect of this issue that has been greatly intensified during the pandemic. ACP also supports recent efforts in Congress to tackle this issue, including the "988” crisis line that the President mentioned in his remarks.
ACP was also encouraged to see President Biden address the need to ensure access to insurance by continuing the increased premium subsidies for health insurance that were included in the American Rescue Plan. ACP supports efforts to ensure all Americans have access to affordable health care including making improvements to the policies put in place by the Affordable Care Act. We have seen record numbers of enrollees since the premium subsidy increases went into effect, the subsidies need to be maintained so those patients can remain insured. Our patients want to be covered by insurance; they just need to be able to afford it.
ACP supports the President’s call to increase our efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. ACP has advocated for the type of ongoing, multi-pronged strategy that President Biden outlined. We need Americans to continue to get vaccinated and boosted; for additional tests to be distributed free of charge; greater access to anti-viral treatments, including being able to receive them in a pharmacy immediately after seeing a positive test; and getting vaccines out to the rest of the world. Funding is critical to achieving all of those items and needs to be approved swiftly.
ACP was also pleased to see President Biden address other issues in our health care system, critical to improving the lives of patients, including:
- Reducing drug prices. ACP is extremely concerned about the rising costs of prescription medications. Any drug can only be as effective as a patient’s ability to access it. ACP specifically supports allowing Medicare to begin negotiating prices for prescription drugs.
- Improving health care for women and pregnant people. The President’s commitment to protecting and ensuring access to evidence-based reproductive health care services and abortion is critical. A pending Supreme Court case and various state laws have the potential to fundamentally deny or limit access to these services, intruding on the patient-physician relationship. Improvements in maternal health care, especially efforts that would decrease maternal mortality among Black women, and strengthening the Violence Against Women Act are also critical to ensuring the health of women and pregnant people in our country.
- Investment in improving nursing home and long-term care. Patients in these facilities and their families need to be assured that they are receiving adequate care in the safest possible environment.
- A renewed call to pass the Equality Act. ACP supports efforts to improve equality for LGBTQIA persons. Discrimination and disparities that these patients are subject to negatively impacts their health. We are especially concerned about recent the onslaught of state laws targeting transgender Americans and their families.
- Additionally, ACP supports the call for a path to citizenship for dreamers and for other essential workers.
We were also encouraged by the mention of the need to reduce gun violence and increase accountability for law enforcement officers. ACP supports many of the proven strategies that were specifically mentioned by President Biden, including community violence interruption, cracking down on ghost guns and gun trafficking, universal background checks, and bans on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. Finally, we were glad to see President Biden discuss the need to address climate change. ACP supports efforts to mitigate the harm of climate change, which is already harming the health of people across the planet.
ACP looks forward to working with the administration and with lawmakers to make sure that these efforts move forward. Together we can make important improvements in the health and well-being of all of us.
About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 161,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
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