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House panel advances bipartisan surprise billing legislation despite divisions

House panel advances bipartisan surprise billing legislation despite divisions
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The House Education and Labor Committee on Tuesday approved a bill to protect patients from massive “surprise” medical bills, but not before a vigorous debate that showed the divides within both parties on the issue. 

The vote of 32-13 sent the measure to the full House. But competing proposals must be reconciled before the chamber can vote on the issue, which is a rare area of possible bipartisan action this year. 

In a sign of the unusual divisions on the issue, both committee Chairman Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottVirginia attorney general survives primary challenge OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden suspends Arctic oil leases issued under Trump |  Experts warn US needs to better prepare for hurricane season | Progressives set sights on Civilian Climate Corps Progressives set sights on Civilian Climate Corps program: exclusive MORE (D-Va.) and the top Republican on the panel, Rep. Virginia FoxxVirginia Ann FoxxGOP's Gohmert, Clyde file lawsuit over metal detector fines House GOP fights back against mask, metal detector fines Sixth House member issued ,000 security screening fine MORE (R-N.C.), supported the bill, which would protect patients from getting bills for thousands of dollars when they go to the emergency room and one of their doctors happens to be outside their insurance network. 

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“This bill reflects a genuine compromise,” Scott said. “This approach is bipartisan and bicameral.”

But a bipartisan group of lawmakers opposed the measure, instead supporting a rival bill from the House Ways and Means Committee that is more favorable to doctors and hospitals, who have lobbied hard against the Education and Labor approach, worrying they would see damaging cuts to their payments under it. 

Reps. Donna ShalalaDonna Edna ShalalaPelosi, Schumer must appoint new commissioners to the CARES Act oversight panel Stephanie Murphy won't run for Senate seat in Florida next year Crist launches bid for Florida governor, seeking to recapture his old job MORE (D-Fla.), Joe MorelleJoseph (Joe) MorelleHouse GOP campaign arm adds to target list NY, NJ lawmakers call for more aid to help fight coronavirus Overnight Health Care: House panel advances legislation on surprise medical bills | Planned Parenthood, ACLU sue over Trump abortion coverage rule | CDC identifies 13th US patient with coronavirus MORE (D-N.Y.), Phil RoeDavid (Phil) Phillip RoeHouse Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit Illinois Republican elected to serve as next ranking member of House Veterans' Affairs Committee Here are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year MORE (R-Tenn.) and Kim SchrierKimberly (Kim) Merle SchrierOmar feuds with Jewish Democrats The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - At 50 days in charge, Democrats hail American Rescue Plan as major win Democrats spar over COVID-19 vaccine strategy MORE (D-Wash.) were among the lawmakers to rebel against the Education and Labor legislation. Roe and Schrier are doctors themselves and warned about its effects on doctors.  

Shalala called the bill “government rate-setting in the private sector,” and a “ham-handed attempt to bend the cost curve.”

Roe said the bill is not “consistent with the American spirit” because it had too much government intervention. 

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The dispute comes down how much the insurer will pay the doctor once the patient is taken out of the middle. 

The Education and Labor approach, which is also backed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Health Committee, would set the payment rate based on the median amount paid for that service in the geographic area, with the option of going to arbitration for some higher-cost bills. 

The rival Ways and Means approach, which is backed by doctor and hospital groups, would instead give the payment decisions to an outside arbiter. 

Unions and consumer group have backed the first approach, warning that the Ways and Means approach risks driving up health-care costs that would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher premiums. The White House also warned against the Ways and Means approach on Tuesday. 

“Arbitration just adds in another layer of administrative cost to our health care system,” said Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalDemocrats shift tone on unemployment benefits Pelosi picks Democrats for special panel tackling inequality White House to Democrats: Get ready to go it alone on infrastructure MORE (D-Wash.), the co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a supporter of the Education and Labor bill. “We want the biggest savings for patients.”