Alexander Launches Series of Health Committee Hearings to Explore Reducing Health Care Costs in America

Posted on June 27, 2018

“The most obvious fact about health care costs, other than that they’re too high, is that they are indecipherable...”

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2018 — Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said “the first step to reducing health care costs in America is to better understand them.”

“The United States, according to the World Bank, produces 24 percent of all the world’s wealth,” Alexander said. “And according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), in 2016, we spent 17.9 percent of our Gross Domestic Product on health care, and CMS says that share will rise to nearly 20 percent of our GDP by 2026. While we should be cautious when comparing the United States economy to other countries around the world, by most indicators, we are spending a significantly higher percentage of our GDP on health care than other countries.”

Alexander continued: “According to the HHS health data office, American families are spending an average of $1,095 per person on their health care – up from $705 a person in 2000, not including insurance premiums. Most people don’t even know what they are paying for because their medical bills are so confusing.”

Alexander made his remarks today at the committee’s first hearing in a series to explore how to reduce health care costs in America.

Alexander continued: “The most obvious fact about health care costs, other than that they’re too high, is that they are indecipherable. Over the last 18 months, the HELP Committee has had hearings on 4 different areas of health care spending: The cost of prescription drugs, wellness programs, 340B drug pricing program, and electronic health records. Now, the Committee is going to focus on ways to reduce health care costs, and before we come up solutions, we must identify the drivers of health care spending.”

At today’s hearing, Alexander used the story of Todd, a Knoxville father, as an example of how confusing health care costs can be.

Todd recently took his son to an emergency room after a bicycle accident. His son was treated, and Todd paid a $150 copay because the emergency room was “in-network” for his health insurance, and they headed home. Todd was surprised when he received a bill for $1800 – because even though the emergency room was “in-network,” the doctor who treated his son was not. Todd wrote to Alexander, trying to figure out why it is so hard to understand what health care really costs and said, “If I’m expected to be a conscientious consumer of my own health care needs, I need a little more help.”

See Alexander’s full prepared remarks here.