Experts want Democratic candidates to answer these health care questions

Price transparency and prescription drug innovation should get more attention, industry observers say.

Experts want answers on how Democratic presidential hopefuls will change the American health care system during the Democratic debate in Atlanta on Wednesday night.

But while candidates and the media have focused on topics like how Sen. Elizabeth Warren plans to fund Medicare-for-all, others like price transparency and prescription drug innovation have fallen by the wayside.


Rebecca Davison, director at health care consulting firm ADVI Health, told FOX Business she'll be interested to see if the Democratic candidates move toward the middle on health care during the debate. She said the recent gubernatorial elections in Kentucky and Louisiana, the entrance of former Gov. Deval Patrick into the 2020 race and polling ahead of the Iowa caucus all show that the American people still track with moderate Democrats.

"If the candidates haven’t noticed it, they haven’t been paying attention," Davison said.

Here are three questions that experts, including Davison, wish Democratic candidates would have to answer at Wednesday's debate.

How will you ensure growing price transparency in health care?

Life sciences entrepreneur Cynthia Fisher is the founder of Patient Rights Advocate, which pushes for "a real marketplace" in health care. Her organization tells the stories of self-insured employers from around the country who say they are saving 30 percent to 50 percent on their health care costs by working with price-transparent providers.

She wants to know how candidates would push for price tags on health care services.

"No matter who's in office, whatever the health plan, however, we determine health care in the future, we need to see prices," Fisher told FOX Business.

Democratic presidential candidates during an Oct. 15 debate in Westerville, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

"It's a nonpartisan, bipartisan issue: both in the private insurance sector as well as in Medicare there's a wide variation of pricing," Fisher said. "It's based upon who you are, where you live, what provider you go to."

Fisher supports the Trump administration's proposal unveiled Friday that would require hospitals and insurers to give consumers more information about what their health care will cost.

By making those prices public, the Trump administration argues that hospitals will face pressure to compete for patients, eventually causing prices to drop.


Health care companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield have already come out swinging against the proposal.

"Unfortunately, the rules the administration released today will not help consumers better understand what health services will cost them and may not advance the broader goal of lowering health care costs," Blue Cross Blue Shield Association President and CEO Scott Serota said in a statement.

Why overhaul the health care system when many voters prefer the current one?

It's crunch time for the candidates as the Feb. 3 Iowa caucus approaches. But a poll conducted at the end of October could spell bad news for Democratic candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders who advocate for disrupting the entire U.S. health care system.

"Voters prefer working with our system rather than overhaul," Davison said. "That's a really important place to start."

She referenced a poll conducted by The New York Times and Siena College Research Institute showing that 56 percent of likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers want a Democrat who "promises to improve the existing health insurance system." That's compared to 42 percent who want a Democrat who advocates for Medicare-for-all.


How will you protect access to health care and medical innovation?

Davison warned that many of the proposals from 2020 Democrats could have ill effects on individuals' access to care or medical innovations like drugs that have huge effects on many patients' lives.

"A lot of these plans are moving people into payment structures which put downward pressure on reimbursement. That's something that economists have shown will have a negative impact on innovation," Davison said.

"If you are lowering reimbursement, you are going to have a negative impact on physician pipeline issues, and that will have a negative impact on access," she said.


FOX Business' Megan Henney contributed to this report.