We Need Common Sense Reforms that will Lower Health Care Costs (September 24, 2009)

September 24, 2009
The Hill Congress Blog
By Congressman Dan Lipinski

In his health care reform speech before a Joint Session of Congress, President Obama pledged to give due consideration to all serious reform proposals submitted to him by members of the House and Senate. I have since sent the President a letter outlining three bills I have introduced plus other proposals that would lower health care costs and help us meet our common goal of ensuring reform legislation does not add to America's deficit.

The bipartisan Hospital Price Transparency and Disclosure Act (H.R. 2566) would mandate that hospitals regularly disclose the prices they charge for common procedures and medications. This would lower costs by allowing consumers to shop for the best value and by increasing competition among hospitals. The bill has been endorsed by Consumers Union, the independent, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine. Requiring all health care providers to be transparent about their prices could produce pressure to rein in charges.

I also directed the President's attention to my bills to eliminate the billions of dollars in tax breaks that pharmaceutical and health insurance companies receive for their advertising and marketing expenditures. Pharmaceutical companies' consumer advertising and marketing to doctors continue to generate concern about the accuracy of the information the public is receiving, the potential to increase demand for newer drugs before adverse side effects become known, and the encouragement of overuse or misuse of drugs. Pfizer's recent record-setting $2.3 billion fraud settlement was just the latest reminder of this. Meanwhile, health insurance advertising often consists of little more than feel-good sound bites and rosy scenarios. H.R. 2917 and H.R. 3205, the Health Insurance Company Advertising Deduction Denial Act of 2009, would eliminate these indefensible taxpayer subsidies that increase health care costs and the deficit. 

In addition, I also raised H.R. 684, the Medicare Prescription Drug Savings and Choice Act, of which I am a cosponsor. This bill, which provides the HHS Secretary the authority to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare recipients, could save seniors and Medicare as much as $700 billion over eight years, according to one study.

While these reforms will help cut health care costs, I believe it is essential that we exhaustively look for other good ways to rein in costs and include these in reform legislation. There are systemic reforms, including integrated care and pay for performance systems, that can both reduce costs and improve quality. Across the country there are numerous success stories, and it is critical that we take this opportunity to do all we can to institute reforms into our health care system so that Americans receive the best possible care without over-paying. 

I hope President Obama and my colleagues will join me in supporting these common-sense proposals to rein in health care costs for individuals, families, seniors, businesses, and our government.