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 ScottLack of child care poses major hurdle as businesses reopen Unions worry Congress is one step closer to a liability shield Victim advocacy groups, Democratic lawmakers slam new campus sexual assault policies MORE (D-Va.) and the top Republican on the panel, Rep. Virginia FoxxVirginia Ann FoxxThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: BIO CEO Greenwood says US failed for years to heed warnings of coming pandemic; Trump: Fauci won't testify to 'a bunch of Trump haters' Hillicon Valley: Amazon VP resigns in protest | Republicans eye university ties to China | Support rises for vote by mail Republicans seek information on Chinese ties to US universities 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 ShalalaThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former NIC Director Greg Treverton rips US response; WHO warns of 'immediate second peak' if countries reopen too quickly Treasury has not disbursed B in airline support: oversight panel We can't afford to let local news die MORE (D-Fla.), Joe MorelleJoseph (Joe) MorelleNY, 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 House panel advances bipartisan surprise billing legislation despite divisions MORE (D-N.Y.), Phil RoeDavid (Phil) Phillip RoeTennessee lawmaker bought stocks in Zoom, sold cruise line shares before market plunge House committees move toward virtual hearings for COVID-19 era As VA's budget continues to Increase, greater oversight is required MORE (R-Tenn.) and Kim SchrierKimberly (Kim) Merle SchrierGun control group rolls out House endorsements Human Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary Washington state lawmakers press Boeing to accept aid 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 JayapalHouse punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate Democrats press OSHA official on issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA 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.”