U.S. Senate – Kansas

Roger Marshall, MD
Barbara Bollier, MD

Jason Buckley

From Kansas City Medicine, Third Quarter 2020
Read PDF of full Kansas City Medicine candidate Q&A

What lessons have we learned from COVID-19, and how can we be better prepared for future pandemics?

Dr. Marshall: Thanks to the leaders at the Department of Health and Human Services, health care providers have had unprecedented flexibilities in delivering care by waiving antiquated regulatory policies and providing increased access through telehealth. HHS has the regulatory authority to make some Section 1135 waivers permanent, but others will require legislative action. I also think it’s important to ensure we have a more diverse and established pathway for emergency manufacturing to meet future public health emergency response.

Dr. Bollier: We’ve learned something I’ve always known—that we need to listen to science and follow the public health guidelines of experts. We’ll only stop the virus from spreading and rebuild our economy, when we wear masks, socially distance, and follow guidance to keep our communities safe. We’ve also learned how necessary it is for our government to work together. I’ve been disappointed to see partisan bickering instead of finding solutions. We need more money for schools, funding for small businesses, unemployment benefits for workers who don’t have jobs to return to, and we need more resources for faster testing.

Buckley: The FDA blocked testing at the beginning of this pandemic. The government should get out of the health care industry. Governments should never have told what businesses were “essential.” Destroying the economy will have long-lasting effects.

The benchmark median rate and arbitration are two approaches that have been presented in Congress to end the practice of surprise medical billing. Which of these approaches do you support for handling out-of-network charges?

Dr. Marshall: I strongly favor a process that would provide an arbitration model that provides health care providers and insurers with an independent dispute resolution process—holding patients completely harmless. As a member of the GOP Doctors Caucus, I have played a key role in negotiations with the committees of jurisdiction to move the Energy and Commerce Committee bill more towards legislation that mirrors what we’ve been working on in the Committee on Ways and Means. We have successfully added 13 provisions to their bill last month, but we are still working on benchmark thresholds.

Dr. Bollier: As a doctor, I know how catastrophic surprise medical bills can be for families across Kansas, even those with good insurance. In the Kansas State Legislature, I introduced a bill, the End Surprise Medical Bills Act (SB 357), which would require the insurer and the person billing the patient—like the doctor or the hospital—to negotiate between themselves, without involving the person who just had potentially life-saving medical treatment. We need a hybrid of benchmarking and arbitration to ensure there is a balancing act between providers and insurers that protects patients.

Buckley: The rising health care costs are due to the government. Get the government out of health care and let the free market work.

What actions would you take to control the rise in drug prices and end shortages of needed drugs? Do you support removing the “safe harbor” provision of the 1987 Medicare Act that exempts hospital group purchasing organizations (GPOs) and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) from anti-kickback provisions?

Dr. Marshall: PBMs and other middlemen have only recently come into light in how they are distorting drug pricing, and the evidence continues to pile at the state and national levels. Repealing the safe harbor provisions and other anti-competitive carve-outs for middlemen is one of my top legislative priorities. My team and I have been drafting legislation that would help put an end to anticompetitive practices and ensure that savings, or rebates, are passed directly on to patients … not kept in the pockets of PBMs.

Dr. Bollier: I support allowing Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to bring down pricing. We all know health care is too expensive and often difficult to access, and this would be a good step forward in driving down the cost of prescription drugs.

Buckley: The rising health care costs are due to the government. Get the government out of health care and let the free market work.

Read/hear this KCUR-FM story contrasting the candidates’ views on health care.