Chairman Alexander: Health Committee Receives More Than 400 Specific Recommendations to Help Give Americans Better Outcomes, Better Experiences at Lower Costs

Posted on April 4, 2019

“I know that the president is looking at ways to give Americans more affordable health insurance and to protect patients with pre-existing conditions, and I look forward to hearing his plan. But the truth is the cost of health insurance will not go down unless we lower the cost of health care. So my top health care priority this Congress is to pass legislation that will give all Americans better health outcomes and better experiences at a lower cost. Because we have a Democrat controlled House, a Republican Senate, and a Republican president, Democrats and Republicans will have to work together to reach a result.” — Senator Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON, April 4, 2019 — Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said the committee “has received over 400 specific recommendations to help give Americans better health care outcomes and better health care experiences at lower costs.”

“I often suggest Tennesseans look at Washington as if it were a split screen television. On one side of the screen, you’ll see the controversies of the day – the crisis at the border or the special counsel’s report. But on the other side you’ll often see bipartisan efforts to improve the lives of every American. Today, I am here to talk about one of those efforts – the bipartisan consensus that we need to lower health care costs,” Alexander said in a speech delivered today on the Senate floor.

“Health care and health insurance coverage are often conflated in both Congress and in media stories, so I want to be very clear that I am talking about the bipartisan consensus that health care itself is too expensive. Health insurance has gotten a lot of attention recently – the president tweeted earlier this week that ‘deductibles, in many cases [are] way over $7000, mak[ing] it almost worthless or unusable.’”

Alexander continued: “I agree. High deductibles tied to high premiums make care inaccessible for too many Americans. And I know that the president is looking at ways to give Americans more affordable health insurance and to protect patients with pre-existing conditions, and I look forward to hearing his plan. But the truth is the cost of health insurance will not go down, or even increase more slowly, unless we lower the cost of health care.

“So my top health care priority this Congress is to pass legislation that will give all Americans better health outcomes and better experiences at a lower cost. And because we have a Democrat controlled House, a Republican Senate, and a Republican president, Democrats and Republicans will have to work together to reach a result.

“Senator Murray, the lead Democrat on our health committee, and I have talked with Senator Grassley and Senator Wyden, the Republican and Democrat leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, which shares jurisdiction over health care. We are working together on developing specific bipartisan steps to help deal with the startling fact that up to half of what Americans spend on health care services may be unnecessary, according to testimony before the Senate health committee.”

The over 400 recommendations were delivered to the Senate health committee in response to a letter that Chairman Alexander sent at the conclusion of the last Congress to the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, governors, state insurance commissioners, economists, doctors, hospitals, patients, and innovators asking for specific ideas about what Congress could do to help lower the cost of health care services. Responses to that letter were due on March 1st, 2019.

The recommendations include increasing transparency, lowering prescription drug costs, eliminating surprise billing, expanding primary care, improving electronic health records, and addressing consolidation.

Alexander concluded: “Today, I am also asking that Senators continue to come forward to Senators Murray, Grassley, Wyden and me with their specific proposals for how we can lower health care costs. What I hope to do is compile the proposals that fall under the Senate health committee’s jurisdiction into a package of legislation that the Committee will vote on early this summer. We can then combine that with what the Senate Finance Committee passes, ask the Leader to put it on the Senate floor, and work with the House to send legislation to the president’s desk.”

Background:

The Senate health committee held five hearings last year on the broader topic of how to reduce health care costs. The committee also held four hearings to explore specifically the costs of prescription drugs, and three specific hearings on ways to improve the 340B program. You can read the letter that Alexander sent at the conclusion of last Congress here.

 

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