MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Democrats and Republicans struggle to find middle ground as the sides push opposing plans to fix health insurance.
Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, R-TN, hopes changing the focus will change the result.
Polls continue shows that cost of health care is the number one issue for American voters. From high premiums to big deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for drugs among the complaints,
Alexander hopes to fix that.
“Up to half of everything we spend on health care in the United States is unnecessary,” Alexander said.
Alexander says wasteful spending is bleeding $1.8 trillion out of American pocketbooks. He argues focusing purely on the cost of care and avoiding another debate over insurance and who pays what will allow lawmakers to get to the heart of the problem.
“You’re never going to have cheaper insurance, until you reduce health care costs,” Alexander said.
Alexander’s opinion matters. He’s in charge of driving the Senate’s health care agenda. On his roadmap is lowering the cost of prescription drugs and clearer pricing.
He’s also intrigued by the idea that doctors should be paid to say fix a broken arm, rather than billing for every test, aspirin, or X-ray.
“There are some things Congress can do right now, doing some things in kind of incremental steps,” said Colin Seeberger with the left-leaning Center for American Progress.
Seeberger says he likes what he hears from Alexander but says big change is unlikely without addressing insurance. The thinktank is shopping a plan to expand Medicare, making more eligible and allowing others to buy-in.
While that idea doesn’t have bipartisan traction in Congress, Seeberger says polling shows the public is onboard.
“The American people want to get to a universal health care system, members of Congress are going to accountable to their constituents,” Seeberger said.
It's unclear whether Congress will take meaningful steps to address health care costs this year or next.
However, the issue will serve as the foundation for 2020 campaigns up and down the ballot and across the political spectrum.