President Biden said on Tuesday, during a speech on mental health, that over 100 people died of COVID-19 during the pandemic.
The president delivered remarks on the expansion of mental health care in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday afternoon.
After an introduction by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Richele Keas, a mother who hit several snags with insurance companies while trying to access mental health services for her daughter, Biden took to the podium.
He thanked Keas for sharing her story, which he said was the story of millions across the country.
“One of the things that the pandemic demonstrated is a need for a lot more help,” Biden said. “Over a million people died from COVID. That’s estimated to mean 8 million people left behind who are close to them.”
Toward the end of the speech, the president’s numbers changed.
“We’re still feeling the profound loss of a pandemic, as I mentioned, of over 100 people dead,” Biden said. “That’s 100 empty chairs around the kitchen table, every single loss. There are so many people left behind and broken folks.”
While there have been more than 100 deaths from the pandemic, he was a bit shy of the correct number of deaths.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were 1,127,152 deaths caused by COVID in the U.S. between Jan. 3, 2020 and July 19, 2023.
Biden announced that his administration is taking new steps to expand access to mental health care, requiring health insurance companies to find gaps in the mental health care they provide.
In the Biden administration’s plan, they will require insurance companies to measure how many mental health providers are in their network, how much they pay the providers, how difficult it is for someone to join the network and how often doctors must get prior authorization before treating a patient.
Then, insurance companies will be required by law to fix the gaps.
When it comes to mental health coverage, Biden said, “it should be provided,” but to do so, coverage, care and causes must be addressed.
He said care needs to continue to be expanded by increasing access to telemedicine, expanding the mental health workforce.
Biden also said his administration needs to address prevention and the root cause of pain and trauma people feel, like loneliness, isolation, social media, online bullying and gun violence.
“It’s important for people to realize they’re not alone,” he said. “That’s what I want everyone to want. Everyone in America, not to feel isolated.”