The NCSL Blog


By Haley Nicholson

Over the past few years, the issues of unexpected medical bill costs have increasingly become an issue falling to the states.

Panel on health care costsA panel assembled by NCSL’s Health and Human Services Committee during last week’s NCSL Capitol Forum took a look at how legislators and staff could address rising health care costs.

Panelists Michael Lundberg, CEO of Virginia Health Information; Michele H. Kimball, president and CEO of Physicians for Fair Coverage; and Rob McKenna, former Washington state attorney general and partner at Seattle-based law firm Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, each focused on different aspects of what is driving health care costs in the United States, while providing resources and solutions policymakers and their staff could use to help constituents drive down health care costs.

Among the topics discussed:

  • The rise of average family health care costs
  • Prevalence of chronic conditions only being addressed well into a diagnosis
  • Issues with overall rising health insurance premiums and additional health care services
  • The need for physicians in rural and high-need areas
  • Marketplace insurance providing coverage for more people but at the cost of high deductibles
  • Dated health care administrative payment systems leading to higher overall system costs

The panelists discussed how the United States has come to bear so many more costs in the payment, provider and administrative spaces with a few key takeaways.

Policymakers and their staffs can begin to utilize tools such as discharge databases that measure patient satisfaction across health care services, online pricing estimate sites that compare in-network vs. out-of-network costs, and the availability of more innovative payment systems that can be used in the health care administrative space. These resources can help inform policy at the state and federal level to:

  • Enhance provider and consumer negotiating power.
  • Increase transparency when health networks establish what constitutes in-network vs. out-of-network costs.
  • Ensure access to care for all patients regardless of location and attract new providers to these settings.
  • Provide updated methods of payment for overall health care systems like virtual card payments.

This panel was just one resource provided in the ongoing process for policymakers to address health care costs in their states.


Virginia Health Information annual report

Peterson-Kaiser health system tracker: How has U.S. spending on healthcare changed over time

Haley Nicholson is a policy director, health, in NCSL's State-Federal Program based in Washington, D.C.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.