Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander said on Tuesday that legislation he and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wa.) have proposed will reduce what the American people pay out of their own pockets for health care by ending surprise billing, creating more transparency and increasing competition to bring down drug costs.
“Nearly a year ago, Dr.
Brent James from the National Academies testified before our Senate health committee with this startling statistic: up to half of what the American people spend on health care may be unnecessary,” Senator Alexander said. “That would mean that up to half of the $3.5 trillion the United States collectively spent on health care in 2017 was unnecessary. That is $1.8 trillion – three times as much as we spend on all of our national defense, 60 times as much as we spend on Pell grants for college students, and about 550 times as much as we spend on national parks. Like every American family, both Democrat and Republican United States Senators are concerned about the cost of health care.”
Over the last two years, the Senate health committee has held 16 hearings on a wide range of topics related to reducing the cost of health care. In May, the Chairman and Ranking Member released for discussion the Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019, a package of nearly three dozen proposals from 16 Republican senators and 14 Democrat senators – that is designed to reduce what Americans pay out of their own pockets for health care. Since then, the committee has received over 400 comments on that draft legislation.
Senator Alexander said, “Today’s hearing was scheduled to hear feedback on this legislation, which will reduce what Americans pay out of their pockets for health care in three major ways: First, it ends surprise billing; Second, it creates more transparency – there are seven bipartisan provisions that will: eliminate gag clauses and anti-competitive terms in insurance contracts, designate a non-profit entity to unlock insurance claims for employers, ban Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM) from charging more for a drug than the PBM paid for the drug, and require patients to be given more information on the cost and quality of their care. You can’t lower your health care costs until you know what your health care actually costs. And third, it increases prescription drug competition – there are nine provisions to help bring more lower cost generic and biosimilar drugs to patients.
“Other committees are also working on their own packages of legislation to lower the cost of health care. “Since January, Senator Murray and I have been working in parallel with Senator Grassley and Senator Wyden, who lead the Finance Committee. They are working on their own bipartisan bill, which they plan to markup this summer. The Senate Judiciary Committee is also working on some bipartisan bills to address high drug costs and has held a hearing on consolidation in health care. And the House Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Judiciary Committees have all reported out bipartisan bills to lower the cost of prescription drugs.”
Senator Alexander’s full prepared remarks are available here.