Health-Care Costs to Get Trump Shout-Out as Seniors Seek Relief

  • Speech comes as AARP, lawmakers press for pricing legislation
  • Allies expect Trump to go broad, skirt specific bills

President Donald Trump will hammer on the need to cut costs for health care, particularly prescription drugs, as part of his State of the Union address, a senior administration official said.

Trump is under pressure from the AARP—the nation’s largest seniors advocacy group—to talk during the nationally televised speech Tuesday about what his administration is doing to tackle rising drug prices. At least one Senate Democrat also plans to use the event to highlight surprise medical bills and how Congress should react.

A call by Trump for Congress to act on prescription drug prices could motivate Republicans, who are typically more industry friendly than Democrats, to step up this year. House Democrats have made the issue a main plank of their agenda this session, but Senate Republican leaders have signaled little interest in tackling it.


Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty Images Generic Drugs

The president’s main allies on the issue on Capitol Hill are expecting Trump to address the issue with broad strokes and stop short of endorsing any particular bills.

“I think he’s going to make a broader statement on health costs other than prescription drugs,” Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said.

Modest Proposals

Grassley is pushing a trio of relatively modest drug-pricing measures that would help generic drugmakers create new low-cost medicines and allow Americans to buy some pharmaceuticals from Canada, where drug costs are typically lower.

The AARP sent a letter to the president Jan. 30 pressing him to include drug pricing in his speech.

“We urge you to use this opportunity to highlight the problem and talk about what your administration will be doing, and how you will work with Congress to combat the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs,” the group said in its letter.

The Trump administration just rolled out a new proposal aimed at drug-industry middlemen and the billions of dollars they reap as part of the pharmaceutical supply chain. The change would be aimed at ending rebates paid by drugmakers to pharmacy benefit managers in programs like Medicare.

On hospital pricing, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) will bring with her to the speech a person who received a surprise medical bill for an emergency room visit. Hassan introduced a bill in the last Congress that would prohibit hospitals and doctors from charging people in medical emergencies more than their in-network amounts.

Lawmakers have been eager to tackle the issue, where people with insurance get unexpected medical bills that are often the result of disputes between insurer and hospitals, but the administration hasn’t offered any solutions. Trump hosted a roundtable on the issue in January.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ruoff in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at; Robin Meszoly at