Working to lower health care cost

Published 1:37 pm Tuesday, May 28, 2019

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By Lemar Alexander

U.S. Senate

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If there’s one issue I hear about most from Tennesseans, it is, “What are you going to do about the health care costs I pay for out of my own pocket?” Well, I’ve got an answer.

Republicans and Democrats in the United States Senate have announced a proposal of nearly three dozen specific provisions that will reduce the cost of what Tennesseans pay for health care. These are common sense steps we can take, and every single one of them has the objective of reducing the health care costs that you pay for out of your own pocket.

Here are just a few ways our proposal would lower the cost of health care for Tennesseans:

· Stop Surprise Medical Bills – so Tennesseans don’t get an unexpected bill of up to several thousand dollars from an out-of-network doctor after a hospital visit;

· Lower the cost of prescription drugs – for example, by bringing low cost drugs to market faster for patients by increasing competition;

· Restore discipline to the health care market– this would be done by banning gag clauses that prevent employers from letting their employees know that a knee replacement might cost $15,000 in one hospital and $35,000 at another hospital;

· Help Tennesseans lead healthier lives – for example, by making it easier to access specialty care, especially for those living in rural areas;

· Make it as easy to get your personal medical records as it is to book an airplane flight – improving electronic health records will also allow doctors to spend less time on paperwork and more time with patients.

High health care costs are a drain on taxpayer dollars, eat up employer budgets and — most importantly — are a top financial concern for Tennessee families. So my hope is to move this legislation through the Senate health committee that I chair in June, put it on the Senate floor in July and make it law.

Health insurance has gotten a lot of attention lately. President Trump said last month that ‘‘deductibles, in many cases, are way over $7,000, making it almost worthless or unusable.’’

I agree. High deductibles tied to high premiums make health care inaccessible for too many Tennesseans. But the truth is, you can’t lower the cost health insurance until you lower the cost of health care, and the proposal announced this week aims to do just that.

Some on the other side of the aisle propose to resolve the problems surrounding our nation’s health care system with “Medicare for All.”

Well, if you get your insurance on the job, as more than half of Tennesseans currently do, your insurance would essentially be taken away under this “Medicare for All” system. And if you are currently on Medicare, who would pay your medical bills when we add 181 million more people to Medicare’s system that is going to be bankrupt in seven years?

Our proposal is a far better solution to the problem of expensive health care in our country. The federal government is not going to lower the cost of health care overnight, but I believe there are steps we can take that would make a real difference to Tennessee families, and we shouldn’t allow this opportunity to make progress pass us by.