Bipartisan consensus: We need to lower health care costs

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander

This Congress, my primary focus as chairman of the Senate’s Health Committee will be on the bipartisan consensus that we need to pass legislation to give Americans better health outcomes and better experiences at a lower cost.

Warren Buffett has called the ballooning costs of health care “a hungry tapeworm on the American economy.” And almost every day, I hear from Tennesseans concerned that health care is too expensive.

For example, Sherry, from Hermitage, Tennessee, wrote to me about her daughter’s family and said, “They are new parents now and spend almost as much in health care premiums as they do on their mortgage payment. That doesn’t include the out-of-pocket expenses, such as co-pays and deductibles.”

Health insurance has gotten a lot of attention recently – the president tweeted last week that “deductibles, in many cases are way over $7,000, making it almost worthless or unusable.”

I agree. High deductibles tied to high premiums make care inaccessible for too many Americans.

But the truth is, the cost of health insurance will not go down, or even increase more slowly, unless we lower the cost of health care.

Last year, my committee held five hearings on reducing the cost of health care, and I was startled by the consistent testimony that up to half of everything that we spend on health care is unnecessary.

Earlier this year, I received over 400 recommendations in response to a letter I sent to the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, governors, state insurance commissioners, economists, doctors, hospitals, patients and innovators, asking them what Congress could do to lower the cost of health care.

The recommendations include increasing transparency, lowering prescription drug costs, eliminating surprise billing, expanding primary care, improving electronic health records and addressing consolidation.

I hope to take what we have learned and compile the proposals into a package of legislation that can pass in Congress and be signed into law.

LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-Tenn.) is the senior U.S. senator. He may be reached at his Washington, D.C., office at (202) 224-4944 or via his website contact page at