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Senator Lamar Alexander on his priority to pass legislation to reduce health care costs


I often suggest to Tennesseans that they look at Washington as if it were a split screen television.

On one side of the screen, you'll see the controversies of the day - the crisis at the border or the special counsel's report. But on the other side, you'll often see bipartisan efforts to improve the lives of every American.

This Congress, my primary focus as chairman of the Senate's health committee will be on one of those efforts - the bipartisan consensus that we need to pass legislation to give Americans better health outcomes and better experiences at a lower cost.

It's important to know that the cost of health care has, in effect, become a tax on the budgets of families, employers, the federal government and state governments.

Warren Buffett has called the ballooning costs of health care "a hungry tapeworm on the American economy." And almost every day, I hear from Tennesseans concerned that health care is too expensive.

For example, Sherry, from Hermitage, Tennessee, wrote to me about her daughter's family and said, "They are new parents now and spend almost as much in health care premiums as they do on their mortgage payment. That doesn't include the out-of-pocket expenses, such as co-pays and deductibles."

Health insurance has gotten a lot of attention recently - the president tweeted earlier this week that "deductibles, in many cases are way over $7000, making it almost worthless or unusable."

I agree. High deductibles tied to high premiums make care inaccessible for too many Americans.

But the truth is, the cost of health insurance will not go down, or even increase more slowly, unless we lower the cost of health care.

Last year, my committee held five hearings on reducing the cost of health care, and I was startled by the consistent testimony that up to half of everything that we spend on health care in the United States is unnecessary.

And earlier this year, I received over 400 recommendations in response to a letter I sent to the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, governors, state insurance commissioners, economists, doctors, hospitals, patients, and innovators asking for specific ideas about what Congress could do to help lower the cost of health care services.

The recommendations include increasing transparency, lowering prescription drug costs, eliminating surprise billing, expanding primary care, improving electronic health records and addressing consolidation.

What I hope to do is take what we have learned from our committee hearings and the recommendations we received from industry experts, and compile the proposals into a package of legislation that can pass in Congress and be signed into law, so that we can give all Americans better health outcomes and better experiences at a lower cost.


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