Would exempt patients from having to pay surprise medical bills, raise age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21
On June 26, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will markup legislation aimed at helping reduce patients’ out-of-pocket health care costs and improving public health. The Lower Health Care Costs Act would exempt patients from having to pay surprise medical bills in most circumstances. Surprise medical bills are often large bills that result from a patient unknowingly receiving care or a service from an out-of-network provider, often during an urgent or emergency situation.
The bill also includes a measure to encourage generic prescription drug competition (the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples – CREATES Act) so generic drugs can more quickly enter the market, raises the federal age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21, and extends funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) through 2024. FQHCs provide critical prevention and diagnostic services to uninsured or underinsured individuals who might otherwise be unable to afford a doctor-recommended cancer screening.
A statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) follows:
“We commend Senators Alexander and Murray for their strong bipartisan work to reduce patients’ out-of-pocket health care costs due to surprise medical bills. These unexpected bills, which happen when a patient inadvertently receives care or services out of their insurance network, are often difficult for cancer patients to afford and add stress to an already stressful situation. We’re pleased to see that this bill would exempt patients from undue financial responsibility under these circumstances and give them some much needed security when planning their medical expenses.
“Reducing out-of-pocket prescription drug costs is another top priority for cancer patients and we’re encouraged that the CREATES Act is included in this bill. CREATES has the potential to incentivize even more generic drug competition, giving patients cheaper access to lifesaving drug therapies.
“The most effective means to reduce out-of-pocket health care costs is through improved health and disease prevention. Tobacco use alone accounts for a third of all cancer deaths in the country. We are pleased to see bipartisan consensus to raise the federal age of sale of tobacco products to 21 and doing so without requiring states to pass their own Tobacco 21 laws to access federal substance abuse prevention and treatment funding. ACS CAN advocated for this important provision. Raising the age of sale is one of several important policy changes Congress should make to curb skyrocketing youth tobacco use.
“The bill would also renew funding through 2024 for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), helping to ensure millions of uninsured or underinsured low-income Americans maintain access to essential health services including cancer screenings like colonoscopies and mammograms.
“On behalf of the more than 1.7 million Americans expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year and the nearly 17 million cancer survivors alive today, we urge Congress to continue working together to address the high cost of health care by removing affordability barriers and promoting prevention and we look forward to working with the lawmakers on these issues.”