Lipinski Urges House Committees to Add Cost Containment and Price Transparency Provisions to Health Care Reform Bill

Legislation Lipinski Authored Would Produce Real Health Care Reform for Americans

Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-03) is urging Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel to strengthen the health care reform legislation currently under consideration by adding measures that hold down health care costs and eliminate tax deductions for advertising by pharmaceutical and health insurance companies.

"I am a firm believer in the need to reform our health care system by reducing costs, expanding coverage, increasing transparency, and promoting preventive care and early treatment options," Lipinski said. "But I'm concerned that in its current state, the reform bill doesn't do enough to contain costs. I also believe there's no reason taxpayers should subsidize questionable advertising tactics by big pharmaceutical and health insurance companies, and that we would be better off using that money to pay for reform."

Congressman Lipinski's Hospital Price Transparency and Disclosure Act (H.R. 2566) would mandate that hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers regularly disclose the prices they charge for the 25 most common inpatient and outpatient procedures, as well as the 50 most frequently prescribed medications. This would allow consumers to compare prices for care, helping to drive down surging health care costs by fostering competition.

"At a time when we have more information than ever at our fingertips, health care costs remain largely hidden from view," Lipinski said. "We can shop online for everything from airline tickets to clothing, yet it is impossible to do the same with medical care. That's part of the reason costs are so high: We often have no idea what we are signing up for when we walk through a hospital's doors."

Congressman Lipinski's bill H.R. 2917 would eliminate the tax deduction for both the advertising of prescription drugs and pharmaceutical companies' promotional expenses, including entertainment, amusement, recreation, gifts, and travel provided to doctors who are responsible for prescribing their drugs. Eliminating the deduction would produce $6.3 billion annually that could be devoted to paying for reform. Drug companies' spending on consumer advertising has quadrupled since 1996, generating persistent concerns 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. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies spend even more on promoting their drugs to doctors, raising questions about the possible influence on physicians' prescribing decisions.

Lipinski has also introduced the Health Insurance Company Advertising Deduction Denial Act (H.R. 3205) to end the tax break that subsidizes health insurance companies' often uninformative and potentially misleading advertising campaigns.

"The public deserves straight talk and complete disclosure from pharmaceutical companies and health insurers," Lipinski said. "Instead, it usually gets feel-good sound bites, rosy scenarios, and efforts that confuse rather than enlighten. The last thing we should be doing is making it easier for these companies to continue advertising in such an unfortunate fashion, especially when we could be using the money to improve health care for the American people."

Copies of Congressman Lipinski's letters to Chairman Waxman and Chairman Rangel are attached.

(July 21, 2009)


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