Bipartisan senators reveal sweeping health care package

Bipartisan senators reveal sweeping health care package
© Greg Nash

A sweeping draft legislative package from the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Health Committee seeks to lower health care costs by addressing surprise medical bills and adding transparency to drug prices, among other provisions.

The bipartisan draft from committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux  Negotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts Chamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection MORE (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayPelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive House approves two child care bills aimed at pandemic GOP, Democratic relief packages B apart on vaccine funding MORE (Wash.), the panel’s top Democrat, comes as the pair have been working to find areas of agreement where both parties can take action on health care.

“The steps we are taking on important issues like surprise medical billing, drug prices, maternal mortality, and vaccine hesitancy show we can make progress when both sides are at the table ready to put patients and families first,” Murray said in a statement.

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The package contains nearly three dozen specific bipartisan provisions that will reduce the cost of what Americans pay for health care, Alexander said. It sidesteps controversial issues like ObamaCare repeal, Medicare for All and abortion funding.  

Aside from surprise billing, the package also aims to provide transparency to rebates between drug companies and the pharmacy benefits manager “middlemen.”

The goal is to bring the package to the Senate floor this summer, and Alexander and Murray requested members submit comments on the bill by June 5.

Alexander told President TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation MORE earlier this month that he is aiming for a vote in July.

Lawmakers have been moving quickly to notch a bipartisan win on surprise medical bills, and the legislation from Alexander and Murray is now the second major legislative option in the Senate introduced this month.

Trump has urged lawmakers to take action, and administration officials offered lawmakers a list of principles to guide them in forming legislation. Their top priority is to make sure patients no longer receive separate bills from out-of-network doctors.

Unlike bipartisan legislation from Sens. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyStimulus checks debate now focuses on size, eligibility On The Money: GDP shrinks by record amount in second quarter amid virus lockdowns | Jobless claims rise for second straight week | McConnell tees up fight on unemployment benefits GOP senators propose stimulus checks of ,000 for both adults and children MORE (R-La.) and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanHillicon Valley: Feds warn hackers targeting critical infrastructure | Twitter exploring subscription service | Bill would give DHS cyber agency subpoena power Senate-passed defense spending bill includes clause giving DHS cyber agency subpoena power Lawmakers push NOAA to prevent future 'Sharpiegate' MORE (D-N.H.), the package from Alexander and Murray does not commit to one particular method of payment options for providers and hospitals. Instead, they ask for feedback on three options, including arbitration.

Doctors, hospitals and insurers have all pledged to protect patients from being hit with massive, unexpected bills for out-of-network care, but no one wants to take on the added costs that come with it.

Elsewhere in the Senate, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe On The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions MORE (R-Iowa) and top Democrat Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns Tensions flare as GOP's Biden probe ramps up  Frustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal MORE (Ore.) are working on their own bipartisan health care package, aimed at lowering drug prices.

Alexander has suggested the two packages could be combined.