Dem House chairman, top Republican release measure to end surprise medical bills

Dem House chairman, top Republican release measure to end surprise medical bills
© Getty Images

The Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday released a discussion draft of a measure to protect patients from getting massive, unexpected medical bills, a sign of bipartisan momentum on the issue.

The release from Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHouse, Senate announce agreement on anti-robocall bill Overnight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban House panel advances flavored e-cigarette ban MORE (D-N.J.) and ranking member Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHillicon Valley: Twitter shares more details on political ad rules | Supreme Court takes up Google-Oracle fight | Pentagon chief defends Microsoft cloud contract House, Senate announce agreement on anti-robocall bill House panel advances flavored e-cigarette ban MORE (R-Ore.) comes after President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump opens new line of impeachment attack for Democrats Bloomberg to spend 0M on anti-Trump ads in battleground states New witness claims first-hand account of Trump's push for Ukraine probes MORE called for action on the issue last week.

ADVERTISEMENT
“Today we circulated a draft bill for review that we believe strongly protects patients and families from surprise medical bills,” Pallone and Walden said in a joint statement. “We must ensure that patients are not responsible for these outrageous bills, which is why our discussion draft removes patients from the middle.”

The measure protects patients from getting massive bills when they get emergency care from a doctor who is outside of their insurance network, with the idea being that, in an emergency, patients should not be expected to ask doctors giving them care whether they are in-network or not.

The bill then sets up a process for determining how much the insurance company needs to pay the medical providers for the out-of-network care, basing the payment rate on the usual rates in that geographic area.

Determining this payment is one of the most controversial aspects of the legislation, with insurers, doctors and hospitals all jockeying to avoid taking a financial hit.

The American Hospital Association criticized the plan on Tuesday, objecting to its methodology of setting payment rates rather than allowing medical providers and insurers to negotiate.

"We strongly oppose approaches that would impose arbitrary rates on providers," said AHA CEO Rick Pollack. 

Trump vowed to take on industry at an event at the White House last week.

“We're going to hold insurance companies and hospitals totally accountable," he said then.

 

The Senate is also working on bipartisan legislation, with Sens. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyUN Security Council to meet after Turkey launches Syria offensive Trump faces growing GOP revolt on Syria To win the federal paid family leave debate, allow states to lead the way MORE (R-La.), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanHillicon Valley: Facebook launches 'News Tab' | Senate passes bill to take on 'deepfakes' | Schumer outlines vision for electric cars Senate passes legislation to combat 'deepfake' videos Hillicon Valley: Senators seek national security review of TikTok | TikTok denies claims of Chinese government influence | CNN chief rips Facebook policy on political ads | Dem questions DHS' handling of personal data MORE (D-N.H.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand Bennet 2020 Democrats demand action on guns after Santa Clarita shooting Biden, Buttigieg condemn rocket attacks on Israel Press: Another billionaire need not apply MORE (D-Colo.) collaborating on a proposal in that chamber, which is expected to be released soon.

Calls for action have been sparked by stories like a teacher in Texas last year who received a $108,951 bill from the hospital after his heart attack, even though he had insurance, because the hospital was not in his insurance network.

Pallone and Walden said they are looking for feedback from stakeholders on their draft.

We look forward to receiving constructive feedback on ways to build upon our proposal, so we can advance a bipartisan solution that protects patients from costly surprise medical bills,” they said.

This story was updated at 4:49 p.m.