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From Health Law Daily, January 21, 2015

State of the Union: President Obama addresses ACA, innovation, and Ebola

By Bryant Storm, J.D.

Praise for Ebola workers, a push for precision medicine, and acknowledgement of the success of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) were among the President’s comments related to health law in the 2015 State of the Union address. Although much of President’s address focused on the state of economics and foreign policy, the President found time to discuss health care-related success in 2014 and issues that still need to be addressed in 2015 and beyond.

ACA. Referring to the progress of the ACA in combatting the problem of uninsured Americans, the President commented that “more of our people are insured than ever before,” and that “in the past year alone, about 10 million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.” However, alongside these comments about massive increases in health care coverage, President Obama cautioned that there are areas, like paid sick leave and paid maternity leave, which require more work. The President emphasized that “today, we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave.” He went on to say that he endeavored to have states and Congress work to fix the problem with a bill “that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave.”

Ebola. The President praised the efforts of doctors, nurses, health care workers, scientists, and the military in combatting the Ebola threat at its source. He thanked them for “saving countless lives and stopping the spread of disease.” Although the President also thanked Congress for its bipartisan support of the global health efforts, he cautioned that there is more work to be done to “prevent the spread of future pandemics, invest in smart development, and eradicate extreme poverty.”

Innovation. In his address, the President also emphasized his desire to push scientific innovation. Specifically, President Obama announced the launch of a Precision Medicine Initiative, which has the goal of using personalized information to promote health, and ultimately cure diseases like cancer and diabetes. Additionally, the President expressed a desire to keep moving forward with medical innovations so that the U.S. can be the country responsible for breakthroughs like the elimination of polio or the mapping of the human genome. The President indicated his hope that, in the spirit of such innovation, America will continue to create new jobs in developing scientific industries like those responsible for “creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid.”                              

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