Can Congress Control Rising Healthcare Costs?

Can Congress Control Rising Healthcare CostI was pleased to see a recent publication from Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who is not only a member of Congress but also a medical doctor who provided patient care in Louisiana’s charity hospital system for 30 years.  In his publication, Ideas to Make Healthcare Affordable Again, Sen. Cassidy outlines key areas that Congress can legislate that could have an impact to the rising cost of insurance premiums.

Sen. Cassidy brings a unique perspective to this issue given his medical background, but can legislation be passed that would actually bring down costs?

In his publication, Sen. Cassidy outlines six policy areas to lower healthcare costs:

  • Empowering patients to reduce their healthcare costs,
  • Lowering health insurance premiums,
  • Ending healthcare monopolies by increasing competition,
  • Decreasing drug costs for patients
  • Eliminating administrative burdens and costs,
  • Reducing costs through primary care, prevention, and chronic disease management.

Congress has the power to influence all of these areas but the first may be the most important.  Sen. Cassidy sites the need for expansion of health savings accounts (HSAs) and pricing transparency for elective medical services.  HSA expansion is already being considered which would allow for a broader array of plans to be qualified.  To be successful, education must be provided on the benefits of the HSA and the importance of employee contributions to it, for both the short and long term.

Over the past few years we have seen the emergence of many tools for medical pricing transparency, from both medical insurance companies and independent third parties.  The goal here is to give users of healthcare a way to shop for their coverage and empower them to make the best buying decisions for themselves.  As with HSAs, education is a vital component of this.  It is equally important to know where to look for medical pricing and why to look.  As with many expensive items, savvy shoppers will look at the quality of a product or service and the best price.  Better education will help provide shoppers of healthcare with this same information to make better buying decisions.  Over time, the goal is to create a higher quality of care at more competitive prices.

Overall, it is refreshing to see a member of Congress that understands where many of the drivers of healthcare cost are and outlines a possible path to helping to reduce that.  However, legislation alone may not be enough.  Time will tell if new laws are passed to help control healthcare cost and if the users of healthcare take advantage of that.