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Study Break for the State of the Union Address

By Whitney McFadden
AMSA Health Policy Team Chair

As a medical student, between studying for the next test, preparing for an early morning presentation on rotation, and trying to skillfully hold the stethoscope to hear a heartbeat, I believe the State of the Union is an important opportunity to learn what our President feels are the most salient issues facing our nation. Personally, I was interested in his approach to the issues relevant to many of our patients, wealth disparities in the U.S., the future of our healthcare system, and access to medicine.

Here are some of the points that stood out and will hopefully continue the discussion of how we can improve our nation’s health:

A growing number of Americans who would have been without health insurance are now covered. The president spoke about Amanda Shelley, a single mom with a pre-existing condition that prevented her from having health insurance prior to January 1st. She had emergency surgery that would have made her bankrupt had she not enrolled in her new plan created by the Affordable Care Act. President Obama called on every American to help get their family and friends covered and to tap into the collective spirit that moves our nation forward.

- 3 million young adults under 26 have been covered under their parent’s plan
- 9 million signed up for private or Medicaid coverage
- 0 Americans can be dropped for pre-existing conditions

Other initiatives:
- Raising the minimum wage to $10.10
- Leading CEO partnering to reduce long term unemployment (these are many of our chronic patients)
- ConnectED goal of connecting 99% of students to wireless technology within 5 year partnering with Apple, Verizon, Microsoft, and Sprint
- Improve access to completion of higher education
- Call on the house to support the Employment Non Discrimination Act to endorse gender and LGBT equality in the workplace.

After the address I was left with questions about how immigration reform can improve health disparities provide a secure route to obtaining necessary health services in high need populations. I was also left hoping Obama would address global access to essential medicines as the Fast Track Bill for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement currently prioritizes corporate profits over patients. The much needed study break was well served to see how Obama addressed our nations top priorities and addressed the effects from his healthcare initiatives.

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