Mar 2, 2022 - Health

Biden's post-pandemic health plans

President Biden delivers the State of the Union.
President Biden delivers the State of the Union. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden used the State of the Union not only to project optimism about the direction of the pandemic, but also to launch new efforts focused on mental health care and nursing home quality — two areas that have been shown to be deeply in need of reform over the last two years. 

Why it matters: The pandemic exposed and exacerbated deep societal problems, including within the health care system, and the work of addressing them is likely just beginning.

Driving the news: The White House announced a new strategy to address the nation's mental health crisis, including more funding to build up the mental health workforce and new ways of connecting people with the care they need.

  • Biden also announced measures to improve nursing home quality, including minimum staffing levels.
  • "As Wall Street firms take over more nursing homes, quality in those homes has gone down, and costs have gone up. That ends on my watch," he said tonight. "Medicare is going to set higher standards for nursing homes and make sure your loved ones get the care they deserve."

Between the lines: Neither are new issues. But the number of people — including children and adolescents — struggling with addiction, depression and other behavioral health problems has spiked over the last two years, and no institution has seen a higher death toll from the virus than nursing homes.

Yes, but: Money alone can't solve either of these problems.

  • A key problem plaguing both is a shortage of health care workers, and building up a well-trained workforce — particularly within mental health care — will take years.

What we're watching: Biden also tried to jump start pieces of his domestic health agenda, which is stalled in the Senate, to move forward.

  • Specifically, he mentioned capping out-of-pocket insulin costs, allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, closing the "coverage gap" — presumably in states that haven't expanded Medicaid — and making enhanced Affordable Care Act subsidies permanent.
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