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Federal Lawmakers Debate the Cost of Care

Price transparency, telehealth flexibility, consolidation among top topics

April 26, 2023

Federal lawmakers hosted a pair of hearings today focused on the cost of care in the U.S. and strategies to ensure Americans have access to the coverage they need to live healthy lives.

This morning, lawmakers in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee discussed a host of legislative and regulatory proposals related to the cost of care. The hearings focused on ways to improve access while controlling costs.

“One thing we can probably all agree on is that we are fortunate to have some of the best medical providers and hospitals in the world right here in the United States,” said Pennsylvania Representative Susan Wild (D-7) during the education and workforce hearing.

Among the takeaways from today’s hearings:

  • CMS price transparency update:  CMS is updating its enforcement process for its price transparency rules, shortening the timeframe for facilities to come into compliance, and moving more quickly to the corrective action phase after a deficiency is identified, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, CMS administrator, said during the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing.
  • Controlling prescription costs:  The price of prescription drugs is a considerable factor in the cost of care. Lawmakers discussed whether changes included in the Inflation Reduction Act—such as capping the price of insulin—could be applied to the broader market.
  • COVID-19 lessons:  Pandemic-era flexibilities have improved access and eased administrative roadblocks. These included improved access to telehealth, vaccine administration at pharmacies, and additional flexibility for physicians, nurses, and other health care staff to deliver care when and where it is needed.
  • Top topics:  Pennsylvania Representative John Joyce (R-13) asked Brooks-LaSure about CMS policies related to hospital competition and consolidation. He cited a new executive order from President Biden to promote competition in the American economy.
    • Brooks-LaSure said CMS primarily oversees policies related to price transparency, and other federal agencies oversee consolidation and anti-competitive concerns.
    • Joyce also discussed legislation related to restrictions on physician-owned hospitals, the cost of care across health settings, and the impact of pharmacy benefit managers on drug prices.
  • Quotable:  “I think we’re all interested in ensuring that every American can access the great health care system that we have here,” said Representative Lloyd Smucker (R-11), during the education and workforce hearing. “We have differences about how we can best deliver that, but we have great discussions here today about potential solutions.”

Additionally, federal lawmakers asked Brooks-LaSure about the restricted access to certain medications for Alzheimer’s disease for Medicare patients. Brooks-LaSure said broader availability of these therapies will hinge on full FDA approval.

The Committee on Education and the Workforce and the Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee hearings focused on the cost of care are available online.

This afternoon, the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee also hosted a legislative hearing on the community benefits hospitals provide and their tax exempt status. Be on the lookout for additional coverage of today’s federal hearings in upcoming HAP publications.

HAP continues to focus on federal initiatives that support access to care, our health care workforce, and ensuring hospitals have the resources they need to be anchors within their communities. Learn more about our federal advocacy.

For more information, contact John Myers, vice president, federal advocacy.