Senate health panel to move forward on package to lower health costs next week

Senate health panel to move forward on package to lower health costs next week
© Stefani Reynolds

The Senate Health Committee is planning a hearing next week on a wide-ranging bipartisan package to lower health care costs, followed by a markup the week after.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderWays and Means Committee announces rival surprise medical billing fix Impeachment surprise: Bills Congress could actually pass in 2020 Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the committee, is planning to return to Washington on Monday, June 17, following surgery, which means he will be back for the hearing, his office said.

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A new version of the package would then be introduced after the hearing and before the markup the following week.

The timeline shows that the health committee is pushing forward on its health care package, which presents the opportunity for a rare significant bipartisan achievement this year in Congress.

Alexander had surgery in Tennessee on May 29 to remove a benign tumor in his leg and has been out of Washington since then.

But his return next Monday will allow him to be back to oversee the legislation moving forward. Alexander has been working on the bill with Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills Key House and Senate health leaders reach deal to stop surprise medical bills MORE (D-Wash.), the panel’s top Democrat.

The package includes a measure to protect patients from getting massive “surprise” medical bills when they receive emergency care from an out-of-network doctor. It also includes provisions to increase transparency around drug pricing negotiators known as pharmacy benefit managers and to crack down on anti-competitive provisions in hospital contracts with insurers that can drive up costs.

Alexander has said he hopes the full Senate can vote on the package in July. It could be combined with another bipartisan health care package aimed at lowering drug prices that the Senate Finance Committee is working on.