CQ: Alexander Seeks Proposals for Health Costs Legislation

Posted on December 11, 2018


Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander on Tuesday said he is soliciting legislative and regulatory proposals from health policy experts by March on ways to lower health care costs.

The Tennessee Republican sent a letter to the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute and the more liberal Brookings Institution seeking ideas. The move, which builds on hearings the committee held this year on costs, suggests that lowering health care spending will be a priority for the panel next year.

“I want to find what concrete, specific steps the federal government can take to reduce unnecessary health care spending, or at least stop making the problem worse,” Alexander said in a floor speech.

Alexander said he is also seeking input from the health care industry and state officials who handle health issues, which could help shape legislation next year.

In the letter, Alexander asked AEI’s James Capretta and the Brookings Institution’s Paul Ginsburg to suggest specific ways Congress could “lower health care costs, incentivize care that improves the health and outcomes of patients, and increase the ability for patients to access information about their care to make informed decisions,” as well as how those would work and what Congress or the administration needs to do to implement such steps. He also asked about what shortcomings such steps could have, and why it may be worthwhile to implement them, anyway.

Alexander said he’d share the proposals with committee ranking member Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., as well as Sens. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who are expected to lead the Finance Committee next year.

A legislative focus on health care costs could include a focus on prescription drug prices, which members of both parties consider an area for potential bipartisan work next year. Still, Alexander’s remarks on Tuesday suggested he would take a much broader scope, raising issues such as surprise billing and price transparency.

“The federal government is not going to lower the cost of health care overnight, but I believe there are steps we can take that would make a real difference to American families,” he added. “That might be two or three big steps, or a dozen smaller ones, but we shouldn’t let this opportunity to make progress pass us by.”