WPRI 12 Eyewitness News Washington DC Bureau

Bipartisan plan seeks to lower out-of-pocket health care costs

Washington DC

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Congress continues to work on reducing what Americans pay out of pocket for health care.

A bill making its way through Congress includes 54 proposals to lower costs and more.

The bipartisan plan from U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, was included in the package to ensure patients get medical bills in a timely manner and help crack down on the issue of surprise medical billing.

“They’re deciding between a co-pay for medication that’s $8 and putting food on the table for their family,” Rebecca Kirch said.

Kirch, the executive vice president of health care quality and value at the National Patient Advocate Foundation says that’s the reality for patients with whom she interacts.

“Our biggest concern is making sure that person-centered care happens – so that we’re treating people beyond the disease and financial distress is a major factor,” she added.

Kirch says her organization and Congress have their work cut out for them but she’s encouraged by recent action in the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

“Sen. Enzi and I had a bill that became part of the larger bill we voted on today in committee which is to, first of all, say that we give people more notice in terms of the bill arriving,” Casey explained.

The HELP Committee voted and approved bipartisan legislation that would reduce health care costs, end surprise billing, add more transparency, and increase competition to bring down prescription drug costs.

Casey says his legislation within the bill package would help crack down on outrageous medical bills from landing in the mailboxes of Americans with little notice.

“They’re making sure that patients and families can understand—here are the services that you received while you were in our care,” Kirch said.

“There’s not nearly enough attention paid here to getting health care costs down and getting the costs of prescription drugs down,” Casey noted.

“If we don’t first focus on how can we help patients and families understand the financial liability that they’re facing, we’re not going to get to our ultimate goal of making sure that people get high-quality care,” Kirch added.

The committee plans to present the package to Senate leadership this month for the full chamber to consider.

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