Odd bedfellows Mike Braun and Bernie Sanders team up to support health price transparency

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U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Indiana. (IBJ file photo)

In the world of the Washington politics, U.S. Sens. Mike Braun (R-Indiana) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) would seem to make odd bedfellows.

But the conservative Braun and the liberal Sanders might have more in common that meets the eye, with a growing list of issues they have both supported, including paid sick days for rail workers and travel reimbursements for veterans seeking health care.

Now the two are coming out with their latest shared issue: stricter price transparency standards in health care.

Braun and Sanders—along with three other senators, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Tina Smith (D-Minnesota) and John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado)—this month introduced a bill aiming to strengthen health care price transparency.

Bernie Sanders

Since 2019, hospitals have been required to post all their full-price charges on their website to help patients and consumers understand how much they might get billed. But because health plans, insurers and pharmacy benefits managers still negotiate prices behind the scenes, resulting in different prices for different patients at different locations, it’s still hard for consumers to predict their out-of-pocket costs.

So now Braun, Sanders and the others are pushing what they call the Health Care Price Transparency Act 2.0, which will require all negotiated rates and cash prices between plans and providers to be accessible.

It’s time for Congress to pull back the curtain, they say.

“It’s wrong that the same procedure can be 20 times more expensive in one hospital than in another, and there’s no other industry where consumers are in the dark on the price of what they are buying,” Braun said in a Jan. 10 press release.

He added: “The Health Care Price Transparency Act 2.0 will pull the curtain back and put the power back in the hands of the American people, introducing real market competition into the health care industry and bringing down prices.”

Braun has authored transparency legislation in prior congresses, including bills that would prevent so-called “surprise billing” by out-of-network providers.

Specifically, the new bill would:

  • Require machine-readable files of all negotiated rates and cash prices between plans and providers, not estimates.
  • Expand price transparency requirements to clinical diagnostic labs, imaging centers and ambulatory surgical centers.
  • Require pricing data standards, including all billing codes for services.
  • Require actual prices for 300 shoppable services, with all services by 2025.
  • Increase maximum annual penalties to $10 million.
  • Provide group health plans with the right to access, audit and review claims encounter data.

The bill seems to have a good chance of getting a hearing and advancing to the Senate floor. The chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is Sanders, a democratic socialist.

 “We applaud Senators Braun and Sanders for their bipartisan leadership on the Health care Price Transparency Act 2.0, which will transform our health care system by ensuring all Americans have access to actual, upfront prices,” Cynthia Fisher, founder and chair of Patient Rights Advocate, said in written remarks.

She added: “For too long health care consumers, including workers, employers, and unions, have been subject to non-binding estimates and overcharged medical bills because hospitals and health insurers take advantage of an opaque system that hides the true cost of care and coverage. Systemwide health care price transparency will improve health outcomes and lower the cost of coverage and care for all Americans. We encourage all senators to support this bill and stand up for patients against industry profiteering.”

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5 thoughts on “Odd bedfellows Mike Braun and Bernie Sanders team up to support health price transparency

  1. John Russell….you blew it! BIG TIME! Whether I agree with Bernie Sanders, or not. Whether I agree with Mike Braun, or not. Whether I think this bill is a good bill and the collaboration between elected officials is a good thing, (which, I do!), or not, your reference to Senator Sanders as “the socialist Democrat” shows either your lack of knowledge of the term, or a complete exposure of your political leanings. I would suggest an edit. Bernie Sanders deserves to be recognized in the manner he self-proclaims….a democratic socialist.
    If you don’t know the difference between how you wrote it and how it SHOULD be written, that is most unfortunate.
    For anyone who wants to jump on my case for “splitting hairs”, I suggest they educate themselves on the term(s).

    1. John P: Thank you. Bernie remains one of the few shining lights operating amidst the general sewage treatment plant that is the modern Democratic party. And while I recognize that there is a difference between a “socialist Democrat” and a “democratic socialist” in wider political theory, for most people these are a distinction without a difference–splitting hairs, as you say. And, since linguistic subtleties are very, VERY important tool for leftists like Bernie, that distinction between SD and DS is less about the essence than about the superficial means of manipulating people. I mean, a democratic socialist still wants massive wealth redistribution with the illusion of letting people vote on what method the government will fleece them. Conversely, about half of Congress today are socialist Democrats but would never admit to it.

      In spite of this, I support any effort where a vaguely MAGA-friendly GOPer (can’t say I’m confident Mike Braun is the real deal) partners with someone like Bernie, because it shows how left and right can genuinely subvert the swamp/Deep State/uniparty by uniting in populist efforts to asphyxiate the elitist enterprise that strives to impoverish everything but itself. This is what Bernie stood for, or at least claimed to. And it’s why so many Bernie Bros ultimately shifted to MAGA in 2016. If Bernie didn’t capitulate when it comes to uniparty warmongering (Israel, Ukraine, Iran, you name it) or his insistence that #45 is more dangerous and corrupt than the uniparty itself (more and more people are recognize that it isn’t, hence #45’s polling resiliency), then I could actually get behind Bernie. But he’s only anti-establishment up to a certain generously drawn line. Less gutsy, in fact, than RFK Junior, who also isn’t anti-establishment enough…but then, he’s a Kennedy.

      So, John, establishment defenders like the IBJ do not like Bernie because, if he ever gained a political upper hand, would enact policies that hurt the establishment financially. Fortunately for the IBJ (and the WaPo and the Associated Press and other establishment enablers), Bernie will never gain an upper hand. He’s too old, and, more importantly, he’s always been too cowardly and will step back into line in considerations where #45 and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz don’t, and get pilloried because they don’t.

    2. Just riddle me this, Lauren … you’re so against the uniparty, yet you continue to advocate for a party and candidate that, when they had the levels of power just a few years ago after running on a platform of being for the common man, spent their time giving big gifts to the uniparty and personally enriching themselves.

      Big tax cut for the rich.
      Lots of Federalist Society judges sure to do the bidding of the wealthy who put them there.
      Lots of money to Trump’s own hotels, and let’s not forget the $2 billion gift to Jared. (If only Hunter Biden was that successful!)

      The vaunted infrastructure plan? Repeal and Replace Obamacare with something that would be both better AND cheaper? Never happened.

      What exactly did they give you for your support other than warming your heart by punching down on people you find distasteful? Is that OK for you, self-proclaimed atheist, as leaders like Steve Bannon have decided that those who don’t sufficiently bend the knee to Christian Nationalism will be next to be punched down on? That they’ve decided that the fix to government deficit and debt issues isn’t to make the rich pay a penny more, it’s to punch down on the old and poor to balance the budget on the working man.

      Seems to me that Trump and Gaetz and MTG care about the people just as much as Schumer and Pelosi and McConnell do. You’re not draining the swamp, you’re just switching pigs at the trough.

    3. Joe, I know your understanding of the world doesn’t exist outside of Vox, MSNBC, WaPo, and a few other establishment media sources to which you depend, so why should I bother?

      Of all your laughable assertions–all of which come from Blackrock-bankrolled legacy media that you completely lap up like a kitten with a bowl of milk–the most hilarious is the very possibility of Christian Nationalism. Virtually every week, a new Protestant group is splintering off another–exactly as expected in this deeply individualistic country. It’s been this way for 150 years. There isn’t a single sociological indicator that the Pew Charitable Trust has monitored over the years where America as a whole is growing MORE religious. And this includes the culture-war issues that Evangelicals hold dear. Heck, even Chick-fil-A now accepts DEI money so it can “uplift bLACK voices” or some other IdPol garbage. Yet somehow, the fact that it’s obvious there’s a goal to subvert ALL religious faiths (the dying leftie churches are happy to go right along with the subversion) means that, in your and Rachel “Alex Jones of the Left” Maddow’s fever dream, these Xtians will all band together under #45 and build a National Christian Church of America, which will look like…um…exactly which one of the thousands of denominations, exactly? Exactly who would they elevate to demand those embattled WASPy upper-middle class Elizabeth Warren voters to bend the knee?

      The people being “punched down” are the billionaire class and their ragtag band of id-pol foot-soldiers: apparatchiks like Claudine Gay, General Mark Milley, Colin Kaepernick, Jim Acosta, Rashida Tlaib, Adam Schiff, and Bob Iger. All of these people have net worths in the seven figures–many much higher than that–and yet they’re somehow in touch with “the marginalized” (or they’re marginalized themselves!) and attacks on this claque of identitarians is punching down.

      If even one federalist society appointee is advocating even a single policy that helps shrink government to make it easier for a person who makes $50K a year to pay off a mortgage, that’s much MUCH more than any policies the current uniparty coterie has championed. Nikki Haley will be Joe Biden’s second term. Except she won’t be able to hide behind dementia.

      Like every disastrous left-wing movement of the 20th century, the modern era has swapped out the Marxist class struggle and replaced it with a racial/ethnic struggle. And in doing that, they’ve made the rare billionaires who seem to get this–the Elon Musks, the JK Rowlings, and yes the Donald Trumps–into something none of them deserve: ‘folk hero’ status. If I were to write a biography of one of the people listed above, wouldn’t a catchy title be “Dein Kampf”?

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