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 AlexanderGOP threatens to weaponize impeachment witnesses amid standoff Trump's trial a major test for McConnell, Schumer Trump Jr. to stump for ex-ambassador running for Tennessee Senate seat MORE (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats request briefing on intel behind Trump's embassy threat claim Democrats ask if US citizens were detained at border checkpoints due to Iranian national origin Overnight Health Care: Trump knocks 'mini Mike Bloomberg' over health care | Appeals court skeptical of Trump rule on TV drug ads | Oklahoma sues opioid distributors 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 TrumpTrump's newest Russia adviser, Andrew Peek, leaves post: report Hawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Trump rips New York City sea wall: 'Costly, foolish' and 'environmentally unfriendly idea' 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 CassidyBig Pharma looks to stem losses after trade deal defeat Trump trade deal faces uncertain Senate timeline On The Money: Senate panel advances Trump's new NAFTA despite GOP gripes | Trade deficit falls to three-year low | Senate confirms Trump pick for small business chief MORE (R-La.) and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanCyberattacks against North Dakota state government skyrocket to 15M per month Hillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Bipartisan group of senators introduces legislation to boost state cybersecurity leadership 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 GrassleySenate begins preparations for Trump trial Big Pharma looks to stem losses after trade deal defeat Appeals court skeptical of Trump rule on TV drug ads MORE (R-Iowa) and top Democrat Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Lawmakers call for FTC probe into top financial data aggregator Overnight Health Care: Progressives raise red flags over health insurer donations | Republican FTC commish backs Medicare negotiating drug prices | Trump moves to protect money for religious groups 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.