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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 AlexanderCongress set for chaotic year-end sprint We need a college leader as secretary of education As Biden administration ramps up, Trump legal effort drags on MORE (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayNational reading, math tests postponed to 2022 amid coronavirus surge Democratic anger rises over Trump obstacles to Biden transition DOJ investigation into Epstein deal ends without recommended action 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 rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report 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 CassidyBill CassidyMcConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge As Biden administration ramps up, Trump legal effort drags on The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience MORE (R-La.) and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanCut tariffs and open US economy to fight COVID-19 pandemic Senate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities Overnight Defense: Trump campaign's use of military helicopter raises ethics concerns | Air Force jets intercept aircraft over Trump rally | Senators introduce bill to expand visa screenings 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 GrassleyColorado governor, spouse test positive for COVID-19 McConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Rep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Iowa) and top Democrat Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers On The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds Grassley, Wyden criticize Treasury guidance concerning PPP loans 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.