News organizations including Kaiser Health News have reported on dozens of cases of surprise hospital bills, unaffordable costs for life-sustaining drugs and other health-expense shocks for patients. Shereese Hickson, whose experience with a $123,000 bill for multiple sclerosis drugs was covered by KHN and National Public Radio, was watching the speech.
вЂњIвЂ™m glad he mentioned it,вЂќ she said of TrumpвЂ™s promise to bring transparency and competition to pharmaceutical prices. вЂњBut I would like to see if it really will come true. If you do that вЂ” thatвЂ™s going against the drug companies. TheyвЂ™ll be losing money and theyвЂ™re not going to let that happen.вЂќ
Paul Davis вЂ” a retired doctor from Findlay, Ohio, whose familyвЂ™s experience with a $17,850 bill for a simple urine test was detailed in a KHN-NPR вЂњBill of the MonthвЂќ feature last year and who met with Trump about surprise billing last month вЂ” said he was disappointed Trump did not go into further detail about his health care proposals.
вЂњHe didnвЂ™t say anything,вЂќ he said.
Davis said he would have liked to have heard more about the administrationвЂ™s recently announced plan to eliminate drug rebates negotiated by middlemen in the Medicare drug program, as well as the recently implemented policy requiring hospitals to list their prices online.
вЂњIf he wanted to use the podium to talk about the wonderful things that heвЂ™s done, thatвЂ™s one of the things heвЂ™s gotten accomplished,вЂќ Davis said.
(MORE: State of the Union fact check: What President Donald Trump claimed)
In their official responses to the speech, Democrats were more combative. вЂњIn this great nation, Americans are skipping blood pressure pills, forced to choose between buying medicine or paying rent,вЂќ said Stacey Abrams, former Georgia House minority leader and a rising star in the national Democratic Party. вЂњMaternal mortality rates show that mothers, especially black mothers, risk death to give birth. And in 14 states, including my home state where a majority want it, our leaders refuse to expand Medicaid, which could save rural hospitals, economies and lives.вЂќ
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who gave the Spanish-language Democratic response, reminded viewers that while the Trump administration is seeking to have the Affordable Care Act overturned in court, Democrats would provide вЂњmedical care for your family that no politician can take away from you.вЂќ
In another outreach to Democrats, Trump vowed that his budget вЂњwill ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years. Together, we will defeat AIDS in America,вЂќ he said.
Groups that have been fighting HIV praised the promise.
вЂњWhile we might have policy differences with the president and his administration, this initiative, if properly implemented and resourced, can go down in history as one of the most significant achievements of his presidency,вЂќ said Michael Ruppal, executive director of The AIDS Institute.
Trump also promised that his budget, which has been delayed by the recent government shutdown, will seek new funding to expand research into cures and treatments for childhood cancer.
He said he will seek вЂњ$500 million over the next 10 years to fund this critical lifesaving research.вЂќ The National Institutes of Health has long been a bipartisan favorite in Congress, although Trump in his first budget did seek cuts in NIH funding.
(MORE: CDC Issues New Vaccine Guidelines for Adults)
The one area in which bipartisanship will clearly not prevail is that of abortion. Trump reiterated a promise he made to anti-abortion groups as a candidate in 2016 and pushed for a federal bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
вЂњLet us reaffirm a fundamental truth: All children вЂ” born and unborn вЂ” are made in the holy image of God,вЂќ he said.
Senate Republicans voted on such a bill in 2018; it failed to advance by a large margin. The bill still lacks the votes in the Senate, and the House now has a majority that supports abortion rights.
Abortion opponents praised the presidentвЂ™s comments. вЂњOnce again, President Trump has proved he is our nationвЂ™s most pro-life president ever and he is keeping his promise to the voters who fueled his victory,вЂќ said Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List.
Abortion-rights supporters, meanwhile, chastised TrumpвЂ™s comments.
вЂњShame on the president for using the State of the Union to vilify people who have abortions and the providers who care for them,вЂќ said Megan Donovan of the Guttmacher Institute. вЂњMake no mistake: This is part of a larger agenda to eliminate access to abortion altogether.вЂќ
Staff writers Jay Hancock, Emmarie Huetteman and Ana B. Ibarra contributed to this report.
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