Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Draft Legislation to Reduce Health Care Costs


The National Health Council (NHC) appreciates the opportunity to provide feedback to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on draft legislation to reduce health care costs released on May 23, 2019.

Founded in 1920, the NHC is the only organization that brings together all segments of the health community to provide a united voice for the more than 160 million people with chronic diseases and disabilities and their family caregivers. Made up of more than 125 diverse national health-related organizations and businesses, the NHC’s core membership includes the nation’s leading patient advocacy organizations, which control its governance and policy-making process. Other members include health-related associations and nonprofit organizations including the provider, research and family caregiver communities, and businesses representing biopharmaceutical, device, diagnostic, generic, and payer organizations.

Increasing health care costs and patient out-of-pocket (OOP) costs create significant challenges for the patient community. The NHC supports policies that promote meaningful competition to drive lower-cost, high-quality products and services to increase access to affordable care for all patients. The NHC strongly opposes policies that achieve savings at the expense of patient safety, access, affordability, or quality of care. The NHC has remained committed to policies that address the rising costs of health care, including but not limited to, the costs of prescription medicines and affordability for patients.1 We encourage the Committee to consider and build upon these proposals as it explores potential solutions to reducing health care costs for patients and considers the intent and ramifications of this bill.

As the NHC remains committed to ensuring adequate access to affordable, high-value medications for patients, we are supportive of the Committee’s intent to reduce patient OOP costs. As the Committee continues to reflect on the operational considerations of this bill, the NHC urges the Committee to consider the implications this bill could have on patients. The NHC thus offers the following comments on a variety of issues and areas we believe will greatly impact patients. The Committee should:

  • Define (or provide a reference for) what deems a patient as being “stable” to set a standard for surprise billing protections;
  • Ensure that results from the proposed annual report on surprise medical bills are shared with states;
  • Engage with stakeholders to create an effective literacy toolkit for patient audiences;
  • Withdraw or provide justification for the provision to remove requirements that biologic products adhere to US Pharmacopeia (USP) public quality standards;
  • Ensure the entity selected to create and maintain the health care claims database makes the protection of patient privacy a top priority;
  • Require HHS to broadly disseminate research findings on maternal discrimination prevention in order to inform other health care specialties;
  • Work with stakeholders to establish parameters on how health plans provide patients with new information about their own services, provider networks, and expected OOP costs; and
  • Require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) work with stakeholders to develop recommendations that address the existing gaps in privacy and security protections.

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