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 braces for impeachment brawl McConnell tightlipped as impeachment furor grows GOP senator: 'Inappropriate' to discuss opponents, but impeachment a 'mistake' MORE (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Biz groups say Warren labor plan would be disaster Freedom of the press under fire in Colorado 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 TrumpGOP congressman slams Trump over report that U.S. bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters US to restore 'targeted assistance' to Central American countries after migration deal Trump says lawmakers should censure Schiff 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 CassidyUN Security Council to meet after Turkey launches Syria offensive Trump faces growing GOP revolt on Syria To win the federal paid family leave debate, allow states to lead the way MORE (R-La.) and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanHillicon Valley: Senate passes bill to boost cyber help for agencies, businesses | Watchdog warns Energy Department failing to protect grid | FTC sues Match for allegedly conning users Senate approves bill to boost cyber assistance for federal agencies, private sector Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights 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 GrassleyFarmers: New Trump ethanol proposal reneged on previous deal Overnight Energy: Farmers say EPA reneged on ethanol deal | EPA scrubs senators' quotes from controversial ethanol announcement | Perry unsure if he'll comply with subpoena | John Kerry criticizes lack of climate talk at debate Positive quotes from Iowa senators disappear from EPA's latest ethanol announcement MORE (R-Iowa) and top Democrat Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs Senate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick Schumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever 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.