Senator Cassidy Unveils Proposal to Lower Healthcare Costs

Allison Inserro

Senator Bill Cassidy, MD, R-Louisiana, released a set of proposals Tuesday aimed at lowering costs in healthcare, focusing on price transparency for drugs and elective medical procedures, as well as a raft of other ideas.

“Families and patients have seen their health insurance premiums and the cost of care go up year after year. It’s unaffordable and unsustainable, and things aren’t going to get better until we change our broken system,” Cassidy, who serves on the Senate health and finance committees, said in a statement. “I’m focused on lowering healthcare costs, because we have to make healthcare affordable again. That’s what these ideas I’m outlining are intended to do.”

In addition, Cassidy endorsed the idea of short-term insurance plans, health savings accounts (HSAs), and combining Medicaid expansion funds and individual marketplace risk pools.

The proposal calls for giving patients information on price and quality for medical services so they can comparison shop ahead of time, similar to “buying school supplies, getting an oil change or shopping for groceries.”

The plan also calls for transparency in drug pricing, such as ending so-called pharmacy gag clauses that keep a pharmacist from telling a consumer with insurance that they would save money if they paid with cash, if the cash price were lower than the co-pay; allowing Medicare to pay no more than the lowest-price drug in a class; and pegging the cost of new medicines to an international “market basket” to what patients in other nations pay.

Cassidy endorsed the Trump administration’s plan to extend the sale of short-term insurance plans. Critics of the plans, as well as the Congressional Budget Office, have said that they will siphon off health enrolless from the marketplaces set up by the Affordable Care Act, increasing premiums as only sicker, more costly enrollees are left behind. In his proposal, Cassidy said “the plans aren’t the solution for everyone” but would provide some uninsured people protection in case of an accident.

He also called for Congress to look at ways to “promote lower-cost settings of care” by encouraging “greater use of ambulatory surgery centers, free-standing emergency rooms, rural emergency centers, and physician-owned hospitals.”

Cassidy also called for HHS to commission a comprehensive study on “the social determinants of health and disparities that exist within the current system.”

The proposal called for other studies too, including one on an analysis of consolidation in healthcare and a study of current regulations and reducing costs of those regulations by at least 10%, including reforming CMS "meaningful use" requirements. 

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