Health care costs are out of control; at least the General Assembly is trying to help

March 3, 2023 7:00 am

The Indiana General Assembly still has a handful of bills moving that could curb health care costs. (Getty Images)

I hadn’t planned to write about health care today but as I sat at at the keyboard, the strain of the last two weeks kicked in: the doctors, the tests, the waiting, the nurses, the hospital, the lack of sleep.

So, I hope you don’t mind if I get a little personal. To start with, I am typing this while sitting in the emergency room with my Dad. He has been here a lot lately.

After a terrible fall in mid-February, he spent five days in the intensive care unit before finally coming home. In the past week he has steadily improved but recovery at age 76 takes time and patience — of which he doesn’t have.

Everything was moving in the right direction and two routine checkups seemed positive until the bloodwork came back. Hence, a day-long trip to the ER, an EKG, an echocardiogram, an X-ray and a transfusion.

But at least they didn’t keep him. That would have put us all over the top.

That’s because he is worried, not only about his health, but about the medical bills that will soon start showing up in the mail.

“I think we are going to need a bigger mailbox for all the bills,” he joked in the ER. But it’s not a joke. It’s a real fear.

You would think that with Medicare and a supplemental insurance plan, the financial burden would be eased. But that’s not the health care system we have. He will likely still owe thousands — a retired man who worked hard his entire life to take care of his family and contribute to society.

The prices charged at hospitals, and what is and isn’t covered by insurance, are eye-opening.

Which brings me back to the legislature. Republicans in the House and Senate are trying very hard to make an impact. Some might say they are throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. And it’s not a bad analogy.

They range from big ideas to small ones, but if each change helps a little, maybe by the end, Hoosiers will see a difference.

Much of the focus so far has been on hospital costs, but they also need to address prescription drugs.

At the beginning of the year – with their deductible reset – my parents renewed two prescriptions – TWO – for $1,070. And that’s with insurance. This is unconscionable.

The House has two significant bills related to health care costs moving and the Senate has another three.

One House bill focuses on tax credits for employers who participate in increasingly popular health reimbursement agreements, while a separate House bill would actually fine hospitals whose rates exceed the national average.

The Senate has various approaches: one looking at the role that pharmacy benefit managers play and trying to reduce prescription costs; another limiting how hospitals can bill consumers when procedures happen off a hospital campus. A third tries to free doctors from non-compete agreements so they can serve Hoosiers elsewhere at reduced costs.

I don’t know if any of these ideas will work, but here’s the thing: legislators are trying.

They recognize that these high costs are unsustainable and are hurting Hoosiers — financially but also physically, when they avoid care out of fear or don’t take medication because they can’t afford it.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Niki Kelly
Niki Kelly

Niki has covered the Indiana Statehouse since 1999 – including five governors. She has been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists and Hoosier State Press Association for stories on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, criminal justice issues and more. She also is a regular on Indiana Week in Review, a weekly public television rundown of news. She shifts her career to helm a staff of three and ensure Hoosiers know what’s really happening on the state level.