Thursday, April 29, 2021 | Kaiser Health News

Biden Offers His Vision Of A Stronger American ‘Rising’ From Pandemic

“I can report to the nation: America is on the move again,” President Joe said during his first congressional address, largely influenced by the coronavirus crisis. “Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength.” To get there, he touted his plans for health care and infrastructure.

NBC News:
‘On The Move’: Biden Urges Congress To Turn ‘Crisis’ Into ‘Opportunity’

President Joe Biden painted a nation on the mend, recovering from the pandemic but still in need of a boost from the federal government, in his first address to Congress on Wednesday as he seeks to shift his focus beyond the coronavirus pandemic nearly 100 days into his administration. Biden said he was there to speak to Congress not just about “crisis” but also about “opportunity,” pitching $4 trillion of ambitious investments in the economy and social safety net programs that he argued were necessary to compete on the global stage and said would reduce deficits in the long run. (Egan, 4/29)

The New York Times:
Biden Seeks Shift In How The Nation Serves Its People 

President Biden laid out an ambitious agenda on Wednesday night to rewrite the American social compact by vastly expanding family leave, child care, health care, preschool and college education for millions of people to be financed with increased taxes on the wealthiest earners. Invoking the legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mr. Biden unveiled a $1.8 trillion social spending plan to accompany previous proposals to build roads and bridges, expand other social programs and combat climate change, representing a fundamental reorientation of the role of government not seen since the days of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and Roosevelt’s New Deal. (Baker, 4/28)

Biden’s Declaration: America’s Democracy ‘Is Rising Anew’

While the ceremonial setting of the Capitol was the same as usual, the visual images were unlike any previous presidential address. Members of Congress wore masks and were seated apart because of pandemic restrictions. Outside the grounds were still surrounded by fencing after insurrectionists in January protesting Biden’s election stormed to the doors of the House chamber where he gave his address. “America is ready for takeoff. We are working again. Dreaming again. Discovering again. Leading the world again. We have shown each other and the world: There is no quit in America,” Biden said. (LeMire and Boak, 4/29)

The New York Times:
Biden’s $4 Trillion Economic Plan, In One Chart 

President Biden released the second portion of his economic plan on Wednesday: $1.8 trillion in new spending and tax cuts over 10 years for workers, families and children. That’s on top of the $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan he released at the end of March. Together, here’s what’s included. (Parlapiano, 4/28)

Biden on vaccines —

The Hill:
Biden Vows US Will Be ‘Arsenal Of Vaccination’ For Other Countries 

President Biden on Wednesday vowed that the United States will become an “arsenal of vaccination” for the rest of the world to fight COVID-19.”As our own vaccine supply grows to meet our needs — and we are meeting them — we will become an arsenal of vaccines for other countries, just as America was the arsenal of democracy in World War 2,” Biden said in a speech before a joint session of Congress. But Biden said that won’t happen until “every American” has access to a vaccine. (Weixel, 4/28)

Biden’s Speech Urges Vaccines, Skips Over Masks And Pivots From Covid

President Joe Biden’s speech to Congress focused heavily on the promise of a post-pandemic rebound, with only brief warnings of the virus’s staying power and slowing vaccination rates, and no mention of masks. Biden’s first speech to Congress on Wednesday was centered on policies designed to lead America out of the pandemic, including trillions of dollars in new spending designed to propel the recovery. But, as he touted his recovery plan, Biden didn’t dwell on the pandemic that has fueled the crisis in the first place. He took note of its toll and pleaded with Americans to get their vaccine doses, but didn’t reprise any public health advice on masks or other measures and then pivoted swiftly to other policy initiatives. (Wingrove and Chen, 4/29)

More takeaways and fact checks —

The New York Times:
Biden’s Speech To Congress: Full Transcript 

President Biden delivered an address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. Because of the pandemic, Mr. Biden spoke to a socially distanced audience of less than 200 lawmakers and officials, a small fraction of the packed audience that typically attends such an address. The following is a transcript of his remarks. (4/29)

The Wall Street Journal:
Biden’s Joint Address To Congress: Key Takeaways

Mr. Biden touted the pace of vaccinations in his first 100 days and the passage of the $1.9 trillion Covid-relief package that sent payments to qualifying Americans. He said his administration’s handling of the pandemic was “one of the greatest logistical achievements the country’s ever seen.” (Parti, 4/28)

NBC News:
Five Takeaways From Biden’s First Big Speech To Congress

In his first big speech to Congress on Wednesday, President Joe Biden repeatedly spoke off the cuff and made a populist pitch to “forgotten” voters, urging lawmakers to pass his multitrillion-dollar economic agenda. Biden sought to strike a balance between optimism and pragmatism, celebrating the progress in the battle against Covid-19, attributed to the widespread availability of vaccines and economic aid to struggling Americans, while emphasizing the magnitude of the task that lies ahead. (Kapur, 4/28)

The Washington Post:
Fact-Checking Biden’s 2021 Address To Congress 

In his 64-minute address to a joint session of Congress, President Biden was on mostly factual ground when he stuck to the script. But he got in trouble when he ad-libbed some lines that stretched the truth. Here’s a roundup of nine claims that caught our attention. (Kessler, Rizzo and Usero, 4/28)

AP FACT CHECK: Biden Skews Record On Migrants; GOP On Virus

Taking a swipe at his predecessor, President Joe Biden gave a distorted account of the historical forces driving migrants to the U.S. border, glossing over the multitudes who were desperate to escape poverty in their homelands when he was vice president. In his speech to Congress on Wednesday night, Biden also made his spending plans sound more broadly supported in Washington than they are. The Republican response to Biden’s speech departed from reality particularly on the subject of the pandemic. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina tried to give the Trump administration credit for turning the tide on the coronavirus in what was actually the deadliest phase. (Spagat and Boak, 4/29)

A ‘Dose Of Hope’? Fact-Checking President Joe Biden’s First Speech To Congress 

In his first speech before Congress, President Joe Biden argued it was time to turn the coronavirus pandemic into a historic opportunity to expand government for the benefit of a wider range of Americans, urging investments in jobs, climate change, child care, infrastructure and more. Biden said that taxes should be increased on corporations and the wealthy to pay for new spending, as well as to address escalating inequality. “My fellow Americans, trickle-down economics has never worked. It’s time to grow the economy from the bottom up and middle out,” Biden said. (Jacobson, Sherman, Valverde and Knight, 4/29)

President Backs Medicare Drug Pricing Measure: ‘Let’s Get It Done This Year’

“Let’s give Medicare the power to save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating lower prices for prescription drugs,” President Joe Biden urged lawmakers. “The money we save can go to strengthen the Affordable Care Act — expand Medicare coverage and benefits — without costing taxpayers one additional penny.”

Biden Called For Drug Pricing Reform This Year. But It’s An Empty Call

President Biden told Congress Wednesday to let Medicare negotiate drug prices this year. But it’s an empty call to action. “Let’s give Medicare the power to save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating lower prices for prescription drugs. That won’t just help people on Medicare – it will lower prescription drug costs for everyone,” Biden said in his address. “Let’s get it done this year.” (Cohrs, 4/28)

The Hill:
Biden Calls On Congress To Pass Drug Pricing Legislation This Year

However, Biden notably did not include a drug pricing component in his American Families Plan unveiled earlier Wednesday, a major legislative package with proposals on paid leave and child care. The absence of a drug pricing plan, despite pressure from congressional Democrats to include one, has raised questions about Biden’s commitment to moving forward on the legislation. Still, Biden made forceful remarks in Wednesday’s speech, while presenting health care as a separate topic from the Families Plan. (Sullivan, 4/28)

The Washington Examiner:
Biden Endorses Controversial Drug Pricing Plan To Pay For Obamacare

House Democrats first passed the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now legislation, or H.R. 3, in December 2019, but it stalled before getting a vote in the majority-GOP Senate. The sweeping drug pricing reform package would allow the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate prescription drug prices for Medicare. The bill would also require a drug’s price to be set at or below 120% of the average price across six high-income countries — Australia, Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. (Morrison, 4/28)

Modern Healthcare:
Biden Won’t Pull The Plug On Price Transparency, Experts Say

CMS’ plan to stop requiring hospitals to report their median payer-specific negotiated charges with Medicare Advantage insurers is a win for hospitals. Experts said that it’s an easy way for the Biden administration to reduce administrative work for providers without giving up much in price transparency. But it probably doesn’t say much about the Biden administration’s thoughts on price transparency, according to Avalere Health consultant Tom Kornfield. “I wouldn’t read anything more into this than a push for some administrative simplicity,” Loren Adler, associate director of the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy, said in an email. (Brady, 4/28)

Also —

Biden American Families Plan Excludes Medicare Expansion, Drug Price Cuts

President Joe Biden’s new plan to boost the social safety net would not expand Medicare coverage, an omission that could irk dozens of Democratic lawmakers who urged him to extend the program to more Americans. The White House on Wednesday outlined the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, the second piece of the president’s more than $4 trillion economic recovery program. It calls to expand paid leave and free pre-K, make child care and higher education more affordable, and extend tax credits for families passed as part of the coronavirus relief bill this year. (Pramuk, 4/28)

Biden Wants To Permanently Extend Enhanced Obamacare Premium Subsidies

A temporary federal policy aimed at making health insurance more affordable for tens of millions of Americans could become permanent. Under President Joe Biden’s $1.8 trillion plan to help families and children, which he will propose to Congress on Wednesday night, he would permanently extend recently expanded premium subsidies available for private health insurance through the public marketplace. The $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill enacted in March made the subsidies more generous for two years and expanded who can qualify for them. (O’Brien, 4/28)

‘Let’s End Cancer’: Biden Calls For New NIH Agency To Advance Disease Cures

Comparing a new agency’s mission after that of DARPA, President Joe Biden says that the nation must invest in advanced research into conditions like cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Biden Pitches A New Health Agency To Help ‘End Cancer As We Know It’

In one of the most emotional moments of his first major address to Congress, President Biden on Wednesday called on lawmakers to help him “end cancer as we know it.” The bold pledge came after Biden gave a high-profile endorsement of his administration’s proposal to create a new biomedical research agency aimed at developing “breakthrough” treatments for conditions including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes. (Facher, 4/28)

The Washington Examiner:
‘I Know Of Nothing That Is More Bipartisan’ Than Curing Cancer, Biden Says During Joint Address 

President Joe Biden said that ending cancer was a bipartisan issue during his joint address to Congress on Wednesday. … The Biden administration will dedicate a high-risk, high-reward federal scientific research agency known as ARPA-H as part of his 2021 budget allocation request. While details about the new agency are scarce, researchers will first focus on developing treatments for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. (Morrison, 4/28)

NBC News:
Biden Veers Off Script To Thank McConnell But Makes Few Other Bipartisan Overtures

In a House Chamber mostly empty because of Covid-19 restrictions, Republicans stood to applaud only a handful of times, such as when Biden called for defeating cancer and said most police officers “serve their communities honorably.” “I know of nothing that is more bipartisan, so let’s end cancer as we know it. It’s within our power to do it,” Biden said as lawmakers from both parties stood to cheer. (Seitz-Wald, 4/28)

Schooling, Child Care And Economic Aid Plans Touted In Biden’s Speech

A host of proposals that could have big impact on Americans’ health and wellbeing also featured prominently in the presidential address.

The New York Times:
Biden Proposes Free Community College For All Americans 

Proponents of the idea say it will relieve some of the burdens saddling low-income and working-class college students, many of whom struggle to cover tuition costs while at the same time paying for rent, food and other basic needs. Juan Salgado, chancellor of the 70,000-student City Colleges of Chicago system, said that by providing some free secondary education, Mr. Biden’s plan would bring education into the 21st century. (Saul and Goldstein, 4/28)

The New York Times:
What’s In Biden’s Spending Plan: Free Preschool And National Paid Leave 

President Biden’s $1.8 trillion spending and tax plan is aimed at bolstering the United States’ social safety net by expanding access to education, reducing the cost of child care and supporting women in the work force. Like the $2 trillion infrastructure plan that preceded it, Mr. Biden’s latest proposal is funded by raising taxes on wealthier Americans, and it is likely to encounter Republican resistance for that reason. (Karni, 4/28)

Biden Embraces His Inner Robin Hood 

Biden called for adding two years of universal preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old in America; two years of free community college; and increasing Pell Grants. He pushed to guarantee that low- to middle-income families pay no more than 7 percent of their income for care for children up to the age of 5; and to provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. “No one should have to choose between a job and paycheck or taking care of themselves and a loved one — a parent, spouse, or child,” Biden said, casting his sweeping agenda a once-in-a-generation investment “in America itself.” (Korecki and Cadelago, 4/28)

Biden also addressed the economy and gun control —

The Hill:
Biden Calls For Congress To Pass Gun Control Bills: ‘Don’t Tell Me It Can’t Be Done’ 

President Biden on Wednesday evening urged Congress to pass gun legislation, calling on Senate Republicans to support House-passed bills on the matter. During a speech made to a joint session of Congress in the House chamber, Biden called the problem of gun violence an American problem, rather than a partisan issue. He called on GOP lawmakers in the upper chamber to enact gun reform legislation.  (Gangitano, 4/28)

Scott Delivers GOP Response As Fellow Republicans Bash Biden’s Policies

Addressing deep divisions within the GOP, President Joe Biden said, “We need a Republican Party.” Well, he succeeded in uniting Republican lawmakers in their criticism of his speech.

CBS News:
In Republican Response, Tim Scott Dismisses Biden’s Infrastructure Plan As “Big Government Waste” 

Republican Senator Tim Scott delivered a speech responding to President Joe Biden’s first address before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday evening. The response provides an opportunity for Scott, a rising star in the Republican Party, to outline an alternative to the president’s ambitious legislative agenda. Scott began his speech by saying that Mr. Biden “seems like a good man,” but argued that his policies were divisive. “Our president seems like a good man. His speech was full of good words. But President Biden promised you a specific kind of leadership,” Scott said. “Our nation is starving for more than empty platitudes. We need policies and progress that bring us closer together. But three months in, the actions of the president and his party are pulling us further and further apart.” (Segers, 4/28)

USA Today:
Amid Infighting, Republicans Unite To Bash Joe Biden’s Speech

Taking a break from infighting over Donald Trump, Republican leaders found something to agree on Wednesday: bashing President Joe Biden and the massive economic program he outlined in his prime-time speech to Congress. GOP leaders denounced Biden’s plans to spend trillions on COVID-19 and economic relief, and to increase taxes on the wealthy to help pay for them. Republicans also hit Biden’s border polices and accused the new president of spending his first 100 days in thrall to the left wing of the Democratic Party. (Jackson, 4/29)

NBC News:
Offering A Stark Choice For GOP, Biden Revealed Limit To His Patience

President Joe Biden framed the choice he sees for Republicans subtly but starkly Wednesday: enact his agenda or sabotage the country. “America is moving, moving forward, but we can’t stop now,” Biden said as he addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time as president. “From my perspective, doing nothing is not an option.” (Allen, 4/29)

Fact-Checking GOP Response To Biden’s Joint Address 

In the Republican response to President Joe Biden’s joint address to Congress, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said Biden and Democrats were “pulling” the US apart and took time to praise former President Donald Trump. Scott’s nearly 15-minute rebuttal to Biden’s hour-long speech was largely accurate, but some of his claims could have benefited from additional context. (4/29)

In other news about President Biden’s speech —

The Hill:
White House Provides ASL Interpretation Of President’s Joint Address For First Time 

The White House livestream of President Biden’s joint address to Congress on Wednesday evening included an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, the first time in history an administration has provided ASL interpretation for such a congressional address. Prior to his address on Wednesday, Biden announced on Twitter that the White House livestream would include ASL interpretation to make the speech “accessible for all Americans.” (Schnell, 4/28)

The Hill:
Biden Offers Traditional Address In Eerie Setting

The highly anticipated speech, typically an adrenalized affair in a room teeming with lawmakers and other Washington luminaries, was much sleepier this year, reflecting the unprecedented precautions put in place in response to the threat of two very different hazards: outside violence and the COVID-19 pandemic. At an event that usually features 1,600 people, only about 200 were in attendance. And the eerie emptiness of the night — on stark display every time the C-SPAN cameras panned over the chamber — was instantly recognized by lawmakers in both parties.  (Wong and Lillis, 4/28)

CBS News:
CBS News Poll: Most Viewers Approve Of Biden’s Speech

Most viewers who tuned in to watch President Biden’s speech liked what they heard and came away feeling optimistic about America. Speech viewers described the president as “Presidential, “Caring,” “Inspiring” and “Bold.” … Eighty-five percent of Americans who watched Mr. Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress overwhelmingly approve of his speech. Fifteen percent disapprove. (De Pinto, Khanna, Backus and Salvanto, 4/29)

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