Our political parties are coming together to elimiate one of our nations leading struggles - surprise medical bills.
As reported by BenefitsPro, in early February there were two separate bipartisan proposals released to address surprise billing. One of the proposals came from House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott, D-VA, and ranking member Virginia Foxx, R-NC and the other from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-MA and ranking member Kevin Brady, R-TX. At the time, there is no indication if one, or either, of them will gain enough support to make it through the complicated lawmaking process.
According to Modern Healthcare, the Ways and Means Committee bill won the support of the Federation of American Hospitals, while the American Hospital Association is still considering the proposal. The Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth Raske referred to the bill as a "significant improvement over the other surpise billing proposals released to date." As stated in a release from the Ways and Means Committee, the bill will esentially require that patients recieve an accurate bill prior to their scheduled procedure. The bill also aims to create a balanced negotiation process that urges each party to resolve any reimbursement issues before using the dispute resolution process.
The proposal from the Education and Labor Committee is not receiving the same kind of praise, in fact, its being condemned for its lack of reliance on an outisde arbitrator. The Ways and Means committee cites use of the popular method in their bill, which is a cause for comparison and criticism of the Education and Labor bill. The Hill reports that while both bills “set the payment rate based on the median payment for that service in the geographic area, with the option of going to arbitration for some high-cost bills,” the former bill does not have the approval of Representative Donna Shalala, D-FL. Shalala states that she and other lawmakers still have their concerns about the Education and Labor bill and until its amended, she will support the Ways and Means bill.
“I have problems with it because it’s not balanced,” Shalala says. “What I mean by that is the insurance companies are the big winners, the hospitals in my district and their employees get hurt and they’re the largest employers in my district. I can’t support a bill that will hurt the hospital workers in my district.”
Neal defended his bill by reminding everyone that it's important not to anger hospitals. “We think that it’s a good foundation. We think that it’s patients first. Everybody’s got big hospitals [in their districts].”
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., D-NJ, said that he thinks he can work with Ways and Means, but wants to make sure the final bill saves taxpayers money and does not raise premiums.
Either way, it's clear that something needs to be done about surprise billing, and it's a positive sign that so many lawmakers are getting involved, voicing their oppinions, and making suggestions.