Buckle up. It’s a busy week right before recess.
It is widely rumored that a cost containment package will be released this week. And the key question is: what’s in it? Last December, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, asked stakeholders for recommendations on how Congress should address rising health care costs. Since then, the HELP Committee has been working to develop a “cost containment” package, and that bill is expected to be released this week. The exact details are not yet known but we expect that it will be a wide ranging bill covering issues from prescription drug pricing to administrative burdens. It will also be important to see if the leaders of the HELP Committee, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), adopt the bipartisan prescription drug bills that passed the House earlier this month, and if they include STOP Surprise Bills Act in this broader cost containment package.
Speaking of surprise billing…The question is not if Congress will tackle surprise billing, but how. Last week two surprise billing proposals were released, significantly advancing this debate forward. On May 14, Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a discussion draft entitled the No Surprises Act. Two days later, on May 16, a bipartisan group of Senators lead by Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the STOP of Surprise Bills Act of 2019. There is overlap, but there are key differences as well, including transparency requirements, payment processes and defining the circumstances on surprise billing. The varying components within any surprise billing legislation create tension in finding a solution that appeases all stakeholders, but the key component everyone cares about is payment.
And we can’t forget about Medicare for all. Medicare for All will be back in the spotlight this week during a House Budget Committee hearing that will include witness from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). You might remember that CBO poured cold water on the varying design elements and considerations that need to be included when designing a Medicare for All policy. Now we will see CBO take those considerations primetime during the hearing. However, let’s see how many substantive questions the experts from CBO receive compared to the amount of political posturing.
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