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Finance hearing has warning signs for hospitals

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

Thursday's Senate Finance Committee hearing on consolidation in the health care industry touched on a range of topics, but there were a couple of warning signs for hospitals on site-neutral payments.

Why it matters: Most of the site-neutral payments discussion has taken place in the House so far, but now it is getting Senate attention.

What they're saying: Ranking member Mike Crapo pointed to the idea by saying: "Alignment of payment rates for certain services could provide patients with flexibilities and lower costs in addition to advancing competition."

  • Still, he added, it is "essential that any reforms preserve patient safety and bolster consumer access, especially in rural areas that are still reeling from hospital closures."
  • On the Democratic side, Sen. Maggie Hassan referred to the idea, as well as to a site-neutral bill she is introducing with Sen. Mike Braun. "Hospitals are charging unfair facility fees for routine care provided at a local physician's office sometimes miles away from the actual hospital," she said.

Yes, but: The panel's chairman, Ron Wyden, did not mention site-neutral. He instead focused on other areas, including PBMs, which he called "Exhibit A" for consolidation, and insurers using algorithms to deny claims — a practice he said needs "vigorous oversight."

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