Senate chairman says bipartisan health care package coming Thursday

Senate chairman says bipartisan health care package coming Thursday
© Stefani Reynolds

Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSenate Republicans confident they'll win fight on witnesses Administration to give Senate briefing on coronavirus Overnight Health Care: Trump restores funding for Texas program that bars Planned Parenthood | Trump to attend March for Life | PhRMA spent record on 2019 lobbying MORE (R-Tenn.) says he plans to release a draft of a bipartisan package of bills to lower health care costs on Thursday.

Alexander has been working on the package with Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayAdministration to give Senate briefing on coronavirus Conservative groups aim to sink bipartisan fix to 'surprise' medical bills Democrats request briefing on intel behind Trump's embassy threat claim MORE (Wash.), the panel’s top Democrat, as the pair try to find areas of agreement where both parties can take action on health care.

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After the failure of the Alexander-Murray bill to shore up ObamaCare last year, the new package is steering clear of the controversial health care law to focus on other areas where Alexander thinks there is more of a chance of passing bipartisan legislation.

Those areas include protecting patients from getting massive “surprise” medical bills when they get care from a doctor outside of their insurance network during emergencies. Alexander said Tuesday the package would address discounts that drug companies give on their drugs, known as rebates, and “transparency.”

Our goal is to release on Thursday a bipartisan discussion draft for senators and stakeholders to review,” Alexander told reporters. “There could be as many as two dozen proposals in it, including surprise billing, rebates and a whole variety of areas that focus on transparency.”

Alexander said if a proposal is not bipartisan, it will not make it into the package.

“Senator Murray and I have been working very well together on it,” he said.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump to sign USMCA next Wednesday Trump administration releases rule to restrict 'birth tourism' On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Grassley signs USMCA, sending it to Trump's desk | Union membership falls to record low | Manufacturers want Trump tax provision made permanent | Warren presses banks on climate plans MORE (R-Iowa) and top Democrat Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Bezos phone breach raises fears over Saudi hacking | Amazon seeks to halt Microsoft's work on 'war cloud' | Lawmakers unveil surveillance reform bill Bezos phone breach escalates fears over Saudi hacking Top intel office fails to meet deadline to give Khashoggi report to Congress: report MORE (Ore.) are working on their own bipartisan health care package, aimed at lowering drug prices.

Alexander suggested the two packages could be combined and reach the Senate floor in July.

“Sen. Grassley and Sen. Wyden in the Finance Committee have been working in a parallel way, so it's possible both bills could be considered in committee in late June and then given to Sen. [Mitch] McConnell for floor action in July,” Alexander said, referring to the Senate majority leader, a Republican from Kentucky.