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Healthcare Costs 'An Abomination' Says Senate Finance Committee Chair

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, June 19, 2013

Ginsburg maintained that there are a lot of forces pushing for consolidation, including reforms in provider payments. He said steps need to be taken to make markets more competitive despite consolidation, including revisiting the Federal Trade Commission's safe harbor policy to require a demonstration of patient benefit in a merger or acquisition.

Will CMS release more data?
Delbanco would like the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services to release more data and allow it to be used by qualified entities to analyze for quality and payment patterns. Dr. Colello noted that CMS is sitting on so much data and making it accessible will help improve the quality of care. He added that employers should have access to claims data.

Earlier this month, in addition to costs for certain inpatient procedures, CMS made public estimates for average charges for 30 types of hospital outpatient procedures.

Should Medicare have the ability to negotiate drug prices?
"It's completely logical," stated Dr. Colella. "If you're the biggest payer, you have market power and you should be able to negotiate to reduce drug costs."

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), committee chair, closed the hearing with a request for specific recommendations from both the witnesses and "anyone watching this hearing. It's an abomination that we pay about 60% more for healthcare in this country than the next most expensive country. Something's not quite right there. Market forces have a tough time in this area."

Brill Senate Finance Committee Testimony


Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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4 comments on "Healthcare Costs 'An Abomination' Says Senate Finance Committee Chair"


A. Duane Seabury (6/19/2013 at 3:58 PM)
Senator Baucus, I have been in healthcare for more than 35 years. The biggest problems have been created by Congressional action with no understanding or appreciation of the healthcare industry. Like the post office and social security, Congress is "managing" us right out of business. Decision one needs to answer the questions of fee for service or socialized medicine. You can't have it both ways. Once that question is answered then steps can be taken to make it happen. Look at the history going back to Medicare's initiation; take a hard look at Hill Burton; dissect the Medicaid program and at least try to understand the route that was taken by Congress to deliver us to this point. You need to be speaking to healthcare "experts" without skin in the game and you need to show the insurance lobbyists to the door. Oh...while your at it, take some time and actually define the calculations that will be the standard for quantifying and discussing "costs". So far, I haven't seen anything more than a broad brush on "rising healthcare costs".

Will Aclin (6/19/2013 at 2:33 PM)
It's true that nobody actually pays chargemaster rates, but hospitals have no problem billing those rates to uninsured folks and then creating financial chaos when they can't pay. While people with good insurance pay next to nothing for the same services (and their insurance company negotiates a rate less than a third of the chargemaster rate). The 2 major negatives about the chargemaster for me are these: 1) it's good at creating unnecessary financial chaos for the uninsured, and 2) these are the same "rates" that get applied to "Charity Care" reports for US hospitals (for-profit and non-profit). Doesn't seem quite right if you ask me.

Amanda Holt (6/19/2013 at 12:38 PM)
The "chargemaster" concept has become an irrelevant price list and it's "transparency" is only causing consumer concern and distrust of health care providers. You call for transparency? Then why don't insurance company's divulge their contractual rates to their participants so insured individuals can see exactly what their monthly premiums are NOT paying for? Why don't we fix the system so insurance companies actually pay for services and supplies that are rendered based on geographical costs of providing care rather than forcing providers to keep ramping up the "chargemaster" in the hopes of getting sufficient payment for service - if they get payment at all? CMS is the lowest paying institution and, yet, they have the most control over health care functions and regulations? How has our capitalist society allowed this to happen?