Commentary: Congress Should Support Site-Neutral Reforms

by Jordan Davis


The recent Health Equity Report by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee offers a glimpse into the health challenges faced by Tennesseans. Among many concerning statistics, one stands out: 100 people are diagnosed with cancer in the state every day.

Sadly, the financial toll of chronic illnesses like cancer is staggering. It can saddle seniors, families and patients across Tennessee with decades of debt. Nationwide, 23 million Americans are confronting the burdensome reality of medical debt, which can wreck credit scores, send seniors to debt collections, and thwart patients from getting the timely, quality care they need.

I was surprised to learn that a significant factor driving up health care costs is the consolidation of hospitals. Over the past couple of decades, more and more independent physician offices are being absorbed by huge hospital conglomerates – and the new owners then hike up the price of medical services at their newly-owned facilities. They do so by adding arbitrary “facility fees” to patient bills, which are not related in any way to the medical services they receive – it’s solely based on who owns and operates the particular medical facility.

Credible research, including analyses by Wakely and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, have shown that the price disparity for cancer treatment can exceed $19,000 due to these unfair hospital billing practices. This means that depending on the facility you go to for life-saving medical treatments, you could see tens of thousands of dollars more in medical bills. Further studies by Blue Health Intelligence reveal that common procedures like chest X-rays, colonoscopies and mammograms can be up to 56% more expensive in corporate-owned facilities, financially straining patients for identical services.

As a young conservative I stand for equitable access to health care and we oppose the unjust practice of variable pricing simply based on the ownership of medical facilities. It is crucial to address these unfair hospital billing practices to ensure that health care costs are transparent and fair for all.

I’m glad to see that the U.S. House of Representatives made commendable progress on this issue by passing the Lower Costs, More Transparency Act (LCMTA), which includes provisions for site-neutral payments that prevent hospitals from overcharging patients. I’m grateful for our Tennessee Representatives in Congress who voted to pass this critical bill. Now, further federal action is needed in the Senate to finally end the practice of adding facility fees and unfairly overcharging patients.

The good news is that the Site-based Invoicing and Transparency Enhancement Act (SITE) in the Senate would expand site-neutral reforms. It would help make health care more affordable and also reduce federal spending significantly. With health care topping the list year over year as one of our highest federal expenses, the SITE Act could save a whopping $153 billion in Medicare spending and reduce the federal budget deficit by $279 billion over a decade. This fiscally responsible approach to lowering health care costs would benefit all parties involved – our leaders must capitalize on it.

I urge Tennessee Senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty to support the SITE Act and continue the fight to ensure site-neutral payment reform is solidified in Tennessee and across the country. This legislation is not only a step towards financial responsibility in the federal government, but also a stride towards ensuring equitable health care access for every citizen.

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Jonah Davis is a political activist and student at the University of Tennessee where he is actively involved in leadership.





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