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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 SchumerThe bizarre back story of the filibuster Hillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill 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 TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 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 AlexanderLamar AlexanderCongress addressed surprise medical bills, but the issue is not resolved Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: 50 million coronavirus vaccines given | Pfizer news | Biden health nominees Rand Paul criticized for questioning of transgender health nominee Biden health nominee faces first Senate test 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 CassidyBill CassidySunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Republicans see Becerra as next target in confirmation wars Overnight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson vaccine safe, effective in FDA analysis | 3-4 million doses coming next week | White House to send out 25 million masks 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.