In hopes to end surprise medical billing, Senate health committee chairman Lamar Alexander (Tennessee) and member Patty Murray (Washington) introduced a draft package of legislation. The draft package aims to cut healthcare costs, starting with surprise medical billing and drug prices. The lawmakers believe they can pass the bill on a bipartisan basis. Alexander thinks it can be moved through the health committee in June and have it hit the Senate floor as early as July.
“These are common sense steps we can take, and every single one of them has the objective of reducing the healthcare costs that you pay for out of your own pocket.” Alexander says he is making a move to better the lives of many families and individuals alike.
The proposal would require every practitioner at an in-network hospital to take the patient’s insurance. For providers, that would mean they can choose to join the insurance networks that cover that hospital, or they can choose to send the bill through the hospital rather than sending separate bills to the patient or insurer. The bill also calls for insurers to pay providers the median contracted rate for the same services provided in a geographic area. It also requires insurers or providers initiate an independent dispute resolution process, or arbitration, for surprise bills over $750 (surprise bills under $750, the insurer will pay the median contracted rate). If this passes, surprise billings would be a thing of the past, helping save people money and stress.
Another topic on the proposal was cutting drug costs. The proposal would change the policy to stop drug makers of brand-named drugs from manipulating the system. This could help bring new, lower costing generics or biosimilars into the market. They also want to prevent unnecessary delay of drug approvals to citizens. This also calls for the elimination for loopholes where the first generic drug being submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can block other generic drugs from being approved. The proposal calls for educating healthcare providers and patients on biological products and biosimilars (the low-cost version of biological products). This would also help generic drug and biosimilar companies speed up the drug-making process.
Senator Alexander wants to do his part in bettering America and hopefully begin to shine a light on a questionable healthcare system that causes Americans of all statuses to stress about their pocket more than their health.