June 20, 2019
A day after a hearing on the HELP Committee’s cost containment discussion draft, the Lower Health Care Costs Act, committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) released an updated version of the bill (S. 1895) along with a notice that the committee will hold a markup of the legislation on June 26. Unlike the discussion draft, the updated bill includes funding for a handful of health care extenders including community health centers, the National Health Service Corps, Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education and special diabetes programs. The bill also settles on using a benchmark rate to curb surprise billing, one of three options proposed in the initial draft. With a benchmark rate, providers would be paid for out-of-network services at the median in-network rate for that geographic area. This brings the Senate bill in line with the No Surprises Act released by the House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee, which also includes a benchmark rate. Read a section-by-section summary of the Senate bill here. Further changes are expected before the committee markup next week as Senators and stakeholders continue to push for priorities.