Trump lays out health insurance reform plan, calls for streamlined FDA

Trump also called for reforming the “slow and burdensome” FDA drug approval process.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 28: (AFP OUT) U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R) applaud as U.S. President Donald J. Trump (C) delivers his first address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on February 28, 2017 in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Trump's first address to Congress focused on national security, tax and regulatory reform, the economy, and healthcare. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo - Pool/Getty Images)

Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R) applaud as President Donald Trump (C) delivers his first address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Feb. 28, 2017 in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol.

In his address Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress — don’t call it a State of the Union this year — President Donald Trump laid out a framework for reforming healthcare, largely following a model proposed by House Speaker Paul Ryan. He also called for unspecified reforms in drug approval.

“Tonight, I am … calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower cost and at the same time, provide better healthcare,” Trump said, pausing after “Obamacare” for an ovation mostly from Republicans.

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He criticized the individual insurance mandate that is a centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act — an idea actually hatched by the conservative Heritage Foundation in the 1990s.

“The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we are going to do,” Trump said. He then took a shot at former President Barack Obama’s infamous “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” promise.

“Obamacare is collapsing and we must act decisively to protect all Americans,” Trump declared. It was one of those moments where every Republican in the room stood and applauded while Democrats sat stoically.

“Action is not a choice, it is a necessity,” Trump said. “So I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans in Congress to work with us to save Americans from this imploding Obamacare disaster.” Cameras cut to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who smirked as she shook her head.

Trump laid out five principles he said Congress should follow as “we move to create a better healthcare system.”:

  1. People with preexisting conditions should have access to coverage, the president said. There should be a “stable transition” for people with plans from ACA insurance exchanges.
  2. He proposed tax credits and expansion of health savings accounts to help people purchase coverage. “But it must be the plan they want, not the plan force on them by our government,” Trump said.
  3. “We should give our state governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.”
  4.  He called for unspecified reforms to protect patients and physicians “from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance and work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs.”
  5. “Finally, the time has come to give Americans the freedom to purchase health insurance across state lines,” Trump said. He argued that this move would create a “truly competitive national marketplace that will bring costs way down and provide far better care.” Here, he once again seemed to conflate insurance coverage with care.

Trump also gave a nod to the fact that Feb. 28 is Rare Disease Day, and he introduced 20-year-old Notre Dame student Megan Crowley, who was diagnosed with Pompe Disease when she was 15 months old, according to a White House release. Crowley’s father subsequently founded Novazyme Pharmaceuticals — a company now owned by Genzyme — to develop an enzyme replacement therapy to treat Pompe Disease.

“Our slow and burdensome approval process at the Food and Drug Administration keeps too many advances, like the one that saved Megan’s life, from reaching those in need,” Trump said. “If we slash the restraints, not just at the FDA, but across our government, then we will be blessed with far more miracles just like Megan.”

Here’s video of the full address, courtesy of the White House:

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via Getty Images