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

Dem House chairman, top Republican release measure to end surprise medical bills
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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 PalloneOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills This week: House impeachment inquiry hits crucial stretch MORE (D-N.J.) and ranking member Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Wyden asks NSA to investigate White House cybersecurity | Commerce withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon objects | Warren calls on Brazil to drop Greenwald charges Bipartisan lawmakers call for watchdog probe into government telecom office Conservative groups aim to sink bipartisan fix to 'surprise' medical bills MORE (R-Ore.) comes after President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says his advice to impeachment defense team is 'just be honest' Trump expands tariffs on steel and aluminum imports CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group MORE called for action on the issue last week.

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“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 CassidySenators opt to drink milk on Senate floor during impeachment trial Big Pharma looks to stem losses after trade deal defeat Trump trade deal faces uncertain Senate timeline MORE (R-La.), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanCyberattacks against North Dakota state government skyrocket to 15M per month Hillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Bipartisan group of senators introduces legislation to boost state cybersecurity leadership MORE (D-N.H.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetImpeachment throws curveball in Iowa to sidelined senators Sanders says it's 'disappointing' he's not on campaign trail in Iowa CNN to host two straight nights of Democratic town halls before NH primary 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.