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Testimony Before the Senate HELP Committee on the Lower Health Care Costs Act

06.18.2019

n this June 18, 2019 testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), Frederick Isasi, Executive Director at Families USA, discusses the Committee’s bipartisan draft legislation, the Lower Health Care Costs Act.

Testimony Summary:

The cost of American health care is a profound economic and public health problem: A recent survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago found that 44 percent of the public report not seeing a doctor when they need to because the costs are too high; 30 percent say the cost of medical care interferes with basic needs like food, housing, and heat; and nearly two-thirds believe that, as a country, we do not get good value from the U.S. health care system.

Families USA strongly supports the Lower Health Care Costs Act discussion draft. We encourage the HELP Committee and Congress to work to finalize this legislation this year.

Title I: Surprise Medical Bills – Among the provisions included in the discussion draft, a prohibition on surprise billing is probably the most significant and badly needed.

  • Among the three reimbursement options contemplated in the draft, Families USA recommends Option 3 – a benchmark payment rate. We believe the other two options are less effective, but if structured correctly, would represent an improvement on the status quo for consumers.
  • We recommend the HELP Committee address air ambulance surprise billing, either within this legislation or in future legislation.

Title II – Reducing the Price of Prescription Drugs: Families USA supports the policies in the discussion draft, but recommend the Committee go further by mandating improved transparency requirements; passing the CREATES Act; and passing legislation to ban so called “pay-for-delay” agreements between brand and generic manufacturers. To ensure truly meaningful reductions in drug prices, the Senate must should pass legislation to allow Medicare to directly negotiate the price of Part D drugs.

Title III – Improving Transparency in Health Care: Families USA supports the provisions in Title III. We make specific recommendations on how to improve several sections, including strengthening the all-payer claims database, and clarifying that consumers given false information in provider directories are not subject to balance bills.

Title IV – Improving Public Health: We support the provisions in Title IV. We make specific recommendations on how to ensure public health improvements also improve health care equity.

Title V – Improving the Exchange of Health Information: We support the provisions in Title V. We make specific recommendations on how to improve application programming interfaces to ensure patient privacy and align with current administration rulemaking.