Can Congress Get Past Obamacare?


The Republican head of the Senate’s health panel is trying to look beyond Obamacare to the issue of rising health costs, but faces an uphill battle as the cost of health insurance continues to grow and make headlines.

A Senate panel will hold a series of hearings aimed at looking at the cost of health care in America, from the federal hospital drug discount program to the administrative burden on doctors to drug prices and other issues. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the committee, told me he wants to avoid getting bogged down in the debate over the individual health insurance market, where Obamacare’s policies have the most impact, and focus on the big picture of why health costs are so high in the U.S.

“We’ve spent the last eight years and expended a lot of energy on health insurance, especially on the individual market, which is just 6 percent of the total market,” Alexander, head of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said. “We’re never going to get the cost of insurance down unless we get the overall cost of health care down.”

The hearings on health costs will be a good litmus test for whether lawmakers can reach agreement on legislation to address health-care costs.

But, Democrats aren’t likely to keep the Affordable Care Act and the Trump administration’s moves to undermine it out of the discussion. Conversely, many Republicans also want to keep discussing the health law and how they can overturn it.

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