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By Jill Drachenberg, Editor, Relias Media
The Senate health committee unveiled a mammoth healthcare bill that would create cost transparency, eliminate surprise medical bills, and lower drug prices, in addition to other consumer protections.
The bipartisan Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019 is sponsored by Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-TN, and Ranking Member Patty Murray, D-WA. A large focus of the bill is to eliminate surprise bills that consumers may receive after receiving medical care — an issue that has become a hot topic in Congress this year.
The bill, if passed, would protect patients from responsibility for surprise medical bills and would only require them to pay the in-network cost-sharing amount for out-of-network emergency care and for treatment rendered by out-of-network providers working at in-network facilities. The bill does not offer one solution for implementing the plan, instead laying out the following three options:
The act also includes consumer protections to improve transparency in costs and business practices, including:
The bill also authorizes HHS to award grants to states to improve maternal mortality rates, which have been increasing at an alarming rate. (For more information on maternal mortality and how hospitals can prevent these poor outcomes, see the July issue of Hospital Case Management.)
Alexander hopes markup will be completed by the end of June, with a completed bill on the president’s desk in July. Whether this ambitious bill will garner enough support from both sides of the aisle in this contentious Congress remains to be seen.