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Bipartisan group of senators unveil effort to increase healthcare price transparency, lower costs

Group that includes Republican and physician Bill Cassidy, Chuck Grassley and Claire McCaskill penned a letter to major groups seeking feedback.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

A band of bipartisan legislators is seeking feedback from major advocacy groups as they launch an effort to increase healthcare price and information transparency. Senators include Republicans Bill Cassidy, Chuck Grassley and Todd Young and Democrats Michael Bennet, Tom Carper and Claire McCaskill.

The group penned a letter this week to major advocacy groups such as the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, America's Health Insurance Plans, the BIpartisan Policy Center and the Foundation for Government Accountability as well as numerous others announcing they were launching the bipartisan effort with the goal of empowering patients, improving healthcare quality lowering costs and were seeking help in crafting an effective policy.

[Also: New bipartisan policy group aims to reform healthcare]

The senators cite a Kaiser Family Foundation survey that shows American's top healthcare priority is lowering costs as well as the high rate of healthcare spending in the U.S. compared to other wealthy countries.

"We all agree that healthcare costs are too high and now it is time to move towards a system that is more open, efficient and accountable to the needs of the modern patient," the senators wrote.

They also cited research that showed American are having too hard a time accessing pricing information due to a pervasive lack of transparency, a stark contrast to the major retail models most consumers have become accustomed to where shopping around and comparing prices is a common practice.

The senators posed a number of specific questions in their letter in the hopes that organizations would share their real-world experience and evidence-based policies. The questions included: what information is currently available to consumers on pricing, out-of-pocket costs and quality; what information is not available but should be; what role should the cash price pay in greater transparency and how to define it; who should be responsible for providing and sharing pricing information with consumers; what role should all-payer claims databases play; and how can big data be used to drive down healthcare costs. 

The senators also described three state efforts and asked groups to comment on the pros and cons. For one, they cited Kentucky's requirement that hospitals submit ambulatory surgery data on healthcare charges and also quality and outcomes that include diagnosis or procedure-specific comparisons.

The senators said they planned to host roundtable discussions with key experts on the issue in the coming weeks and are also engaging the Administration, congress and governors. The senators asked that respondents submit their comments by March 23.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn
Email the writer: beth.sanborn@himssmedia.com

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