By Senator Bill Cassidy (LA)
Health care costs are too high. Insurance premiums have gone up year after year, while drug prices skyrocket and surprise medical bills drain Americans’ bank accounts. As a doctor, I know that when patients have the power, and incentives are aligned to serve the patient, outcomes are better.
Right now, America’s health care system is rigged to serve everyone but the patient. Companies game the system to drive up drug costs, and a lack of price transparency keeps patients in the dark when it comes to the true cost of a prescription, doctor visit, or medical test. To fix our health care system, we need to address the high cost of care by unrigging the system and giving patients the ability to know the price up front, instead of them getting a bill in the mail several weeks later.
One sneaky practice that Republicans worked with President Trump to eliminate is pharmacy gag clauses, which forbid pharmacists from telling consumers their prescription would cost less if they paid for it out of pocket, rather than using their insurance plan. Gag clauses meant many patients were needlessly overpaying for their prescriptions. But not anymore. This month, President Trump signed into law legislation I helped introduce, to ban gag clauses. This protection includes patients covered by Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans.
It’s a basic principle that people should be able to know the price of something before they buy it. You wouldn’t buy a car or even a pair of jeans without first knowing the price, so why is our health care any different? Consumer Reports sent secret shoppers to more than 150 drugstores across the country to compare prices for five commonly prescribed generic drugs. They found the price of the same medication ranged from $12 to $270. It’s important to increase price transparency so patients have the power to get the best care at the best price.
Another way I am working to improve our health care system is by introducing legislation to end surprise medical billing. Too many people share the experience of doing their due diligence to schedule a medical procedure at an in-network provider, only to find out when the bill arrives that someone involved was out of network and they were billed for thousands more than they were expecting. In emergency situations, patients have little financial protections if they are taken to an out of network hospital. A recent example of surprise billing is a patient who received a $17,850 bill for a simple urine test. Another example involved a patient who received a bill of nearly $109,000 for care after a heart attack. After the story became national news, the provider reduced the patient’s bill to $332. By ending surprise billing and increasing price transparency, we can give patients peace of mind and lower health care costs across the board.
These are just a couple ideas I’ve proposed to lower health care costs while ensuring patients can get the same quality care. Earlier this year, I published a nine-page white paper of ideas to make health care affordable again. I hope you’ll take a moment to check it out at www.Cassidy.senate.gov.
The opinions expressed in “Congressional Corner” reflect the views of the writer and are not necessarily those of TSCL.