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Key negotiator says deal close on surprise medical bills legislation

Key negotiator says deal close on surprise medical bills legislation
© Greg Nash

Four key House and Senate health care negotiators have an “agreement in principle” on long-awaited legislation to protect patients from so-called surprise medical bills, Oregon Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHillicon Valley: Leadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns | Snapchat launches in-app video platform 'Spotlight' | Uber, Lyft awarded federal transportation contract Lawmakers urge FCC to assist in effort to rip out, replace suspect network equipment OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE, the top Republican on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, said Friday. 

“Yes, we have four corners agreement in principle, I would tell you. We're very close to the final wording, but as you know … we got to make sure every word’s what we all agreed upon, but I think we're really close,” Walden said during an appearance on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” that is set to air this weekend.

“And this is a big one, and no president’s leaned forward more on this issue than Donald Trump,” he added. “I was at the White House when he announced an initiative on this. And so I think I'm pretty confident he'll sign it.”

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The agreement would be between Walden, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHouse Democrats urge Amazon to investigate, recall 'defective' products Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight Pharma execs say FDA will not lower standards for coronavirus vaccine MORE (D-N.J.), and Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderTrump tells GSA that Biden transition can begin Democrats gear up for last oversight showdown with Trump Trump nominee's long road to Fed may be dead end MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocratic anger rises over Trump obstacles to Biden transition DOJ investigation into Epstein deal ends without recommended action The Hill's 12:30 Report: What to know about the Pfizer vaccine announcement MORE (D-Wash.), the leaders of the Senate Health Committee. 

Stopping surprise medical bills is seen as a rare area of possible bipartisan agreement this year. President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Trump's remaking of the judicial system Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit MORE has called for action and both parties in Congress are working toward a solution as well. The legislation would protect patients from getting massive bills when they go to the emergency room and one of the doctors happens to be out of their insurance network.   

The agreement among committee leaders still needs to be endorsed by congressional leadership in both parties, which remains a question. 

Some lawmakers are pushing for a measure that would be friendlier to doctors and hospitals, who have been worried about cuts to their payments and have been lobbying hard on the issue. That remains an obstacle. 

With the House set to depart Washington for the holidays by Dec. 20, Walden said if leadership blesses the deal, the surprise medical bills legislation “likely” will be wrapped into an year-end package to fund the government.

“It's hard to move standalone legislation at this point, but I leave that to people with a higher pay grade than I: the leaders of the House and Senate,” Walden said.  

The interview with Walden will air twice on C-SPAN on Sunday, at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.