Schumer: Leadership trying to work out competing surprise medical bill measures

Schumer: Leadership trying to work out competing surprise medical bill measures
© Greg Nash

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats blast Trump after report reveals he avoided income taxes for 10 years: 'Disgusting' Biden refuses to say whether he would support expanding Supreme Court Schumer says Trump tweet shows court pick meant to kill off ObamaCare MORE (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday that congressional leadership is trying to work out differences between competing measures to protect patients from getting hit with massive, “surprise” medical bills. 

The effort is a rare area for possible bipartisan action this year, given that lawmakers in both parties and President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Ocasio-Cortez: Trump contributed less in taxes 'than waitresses and undocumented immigrants' Third judge orders Postal Service to halt delivery cuts MORE say that patients should be protected from getting medical bills for thousands of dollars when they go to the emergency room and one of the doctors in the facility happens to be outside their insurance network.

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But the push has set off a lobbying onslaught from hospitals and doctors who warn that the leading approach in Congress would result in damaging cuts to their payments. 

The competing factions will likely have to be brought together in some fashion if legislation is to pass. 

Sources say that Schumer is sympathetic to the concerns raised by hospitals to the bill that passed out of the Senate Health Committee in June and was led by Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderDemocratic Senate candidate in Tennessee discusses working-class background Pelosi urges early voting to counter GOP's high court gambit: 'There has to be a price to pay' Graham: GOP has votes to confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate Democrats introduce legislation to probe politicization of pandemic response Trump health officials grilled over reports of politics in COVID-19 response CDC director pushes back on Caputo claim of 'resistance unit' at agency MORE (D-Wash.).

The Greater New York Hospital Association, in Schumer’s home state, is one of the leading opponents of that bill. 

Asked on Tuesday if he supported the Senate Health Committee's bill and about the hospital association's concerns, Schumer did not take a side but said that lawmakers are trying to work out the dispute.

“I think we have to do something about surprise billing, and there are two different proposals, and I think the leadership is working that out,” Schumer said. 

The dispute is centered on the details of how much the insurer will pay to the doctor or hospital once the patient is taken out of the middle. The Senate Health Committee bill essentially sets the rate that the insurer will pay the doctor, whereas doctors and hospitals support a competing idea that would allow an outside arbitrator to set the price. 

Experts have warned that the proposals backed by hospitals and doctors could drive up health care costs. 

Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyCoushatta tribe begins long road to recovery after Hurricane Laura Senators offer disaster tax relief bill Bottom line MORE (R-La.) said Monday that staff members are having “intense meetings” to try to work out an agreement. Staff for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which also has a bill, is meeting with the Senate Health Committee to try to work out an agreement, and backers are trying to get the measure included in a government funding package in December.