Overnight Health Care: Rival surprise billing fix sails through House panel | Powerful Nevada union warns against Sanders health plan | Cruise ship denied entry over coronavirus fears to dock in Cambodia

Overnight Health Care: Rival surprise billing fix sails through House panel | Powerful Nevada union warns against Sanders health plan | Cruise ship denied entry over coronavirus fears to dock in Cambodia
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care.

The House Ways and Means Committee passed its own version of surprise billing legislation today, and the president of a powerful doctor's association and a Nevada union are separately warning against Medicare for All.

Let's start with the committee vote in the House...


Surprise billing fix sails through Ways and Means

The Ways and Means Committee passed its own version of surprise billing legislation Wednesday, one day after the Education and Labor Committee approved a competing bill. 

The Ways and Means version passed by a voice vote.

Context: Congress wants to end the practice of surprise billing, which can happen to patients who go to an in-network hospital or emergency room but are treated by an out-of-network doctor. When insurers don't pay the full amount, providers often bill patients for the remainder. 

While lawmakers agree insurers should pay these bills, a debate is brewing over how much they should have to pay providers for their services. 

The big difference: The Ways and Means proposal, which is viewed as being more provider friendly, would give the decision on how much the insurer should pay the doctor to an outside arbiter. 

The Education and Labor bill, which passed the committee 32-13 on Tuesday, 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. Insurers favor this approach. 


The bill is similar to one that passed the Energy and Commerce Committee last year. 

What's next: Leaders have to reconcile the differences between the three bills and hope to include it in a spending bill that Congress must pass by May 22. 


Wednesday, February 26: America's Opioid Epidemic: Lessons Learned & A Way Forward 

Join The Hill on Wednesday, February 26th in downtown Washington, D.C. as we host a conversation about expanding access to treatment and helping those battling opioid addiction begin the journey toward long-term recovery. We will be speaking with Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Rep. David JoyceDavid Patrick JoyceThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The American Investment Council - Trump takes his 'ready to reopen' mantra on the road GE cutting up to one-quarter of aviation unit's workers Boeing suspends Washington production, GE Aviation lays off thousands MORE (R-Ohio) and Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court upholds permit for B pipeline under Appalachian Trail | Report finds NOAA 'Sharpiegate' statement 'not based on science' but political influence | EPA faces suit over plan to release genetically engineered mosquito Report finds NOAA 'sharpiegate' statement 'not based on science' but political influence Democrats call for green energy relief in next stimulus package MORE (D-N.Y.). RSVP today


American Medical Association president warns against 'one-size-fits-all' single-payer system

The president of the American Medical Association (AMA), the nation's leading doctors group, criticized Medicare for All as a "one-size-fits all solution" on Wednesday, but acknowledged that some doctors, particularly younger ones, support the idea. 

"We just don't think a one-size-fits-all solution works," Dr. Patrice Harris told The Hill when asked about a Medicare for All, single-payer system. 

"And so, we believe that there should be choice for patient, choice for physician, and there should be a plurality of available options, but absolutely having a strong safety net," she added in the interview at the group's national advocacy conference in Washington.  

Watch out for shifts though: The House of Delegates of the AMA, narrowly voted down a measure to drop the organization's decades-long opposition to a single-payer system last year, by a vote of 53 percent to 47 percent. 

But attitudes among doctors could be changing. Asked if younger doctors are more open to single-payer, Harris said, "I've seen that, I've witnessed that."

"I think there are folks of all, you know, age ranges and specialties that might support that," she added. "But again, that's the beauty of the AMA and our democratic process and our value of diverse thoughts and opinions."

Read more here.



Powerful Nevada union warns against Sanders health plan

A possible warning sign for Sanders in Nevada: The powerful Culinary Union in Nevada is warning that Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Campaign Report: LIVE: Trump from Gettysburg | The many unknowns of 2020 | Omar among those facing primary challenges Trump's personality is as much a problem as his performance Sierra Club endorses Biden for president  MORE's (I-Vt.) "Medicare for All" plan would "end" their health care plan. 

The warning comes in a flyer distributed by the union and obtained by The Nevada Independent. The flyer describes Sanders's health care plan by saying it would "End Culinary Healthcare." Under his Medicare for All plan, all private health insurance would be replaced with a government-run plan. 

Rivals looking for advantage: Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Former Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan dies How Republicans can embrace environmentalism and win MORE, a more moderate rival to Sanders, sought to appeal to unions on health care on Wednesday. 

He is proposing an optional government-run health plan that would allow unions and others to keep their private health insurance if they want it. 

"There are 14 million union workers in America who have fought hard for strong, employer-provided health benefits," Buttigieg tweeted. "Medicare for All Who Want It protects their plans and union members' freedom to choose the coverage that's best for them."


The Culinary Union released a statement late Wednesday. "Workers should have the right to choose to keep the healthcare Culinary Union members have built, sacrificed for, and went on strike for 6 years, 4 months, and 10 days to protect," said Geoconda Argüello-Kline.

"It's disappointing that Senator Sanders' supporters have viciously attacked the Culinary Union and working families in Nevada simply because our union has provided facts on what certain healthcare proposals might do to take away the system of care we have built over 8 decades."

Read more here.


Cruise ship denied entry by four governments will finally dock in Cambodia

A cruise ship will be allowed to dock in Cambodia after four other countries' governments turned it away over concerns about coronavirus being spread by passengers.

Thailand, Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines had previously turned away the MS Westerdam despite assurances from its operator, Holland America Line, that there were no confirmed cases of the virus among the 2,200 passengers and crew on the ship, The Associated Press reported.


U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia W. Patrick MurphyPatrick Erin MurphySupreme Court rules that large swath of Oklahoma belongs to Indian reservation Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers seek 5G rivals to Huawei | Amazon, eBay grilled over online counterfeits | Judge tosses Gabbard lawsuit against Google | GOP senator introduces bill banning TikTok on government devices Bipartisan commission to make 75 recommendations to defend against cyberattacks MORE said Wednesday that Cambodian authorities would allow the ship, whose passengers include U.S. citizens, to dock at the port of Sihanoukville. "We have also coordinated with foreign embassies of other nationalities," Murphy added.

The Westerdam is projected to arrive in the port Thursday morning, after which passengers will be able to transfer to charter flights to Phnom Penh and catch flights home, according to a statement from Holland America.

Read more here.


What we're reading

Doctors push back as Congress takes aim at surprise medical bills (Kaiser Health News

Labs scramble to spot hidden coronavirus infections (Science Mag)

After a new version of a decades-old drug gets orphan status the price suddenly skyrockets (statnews.com)


State by state

Single payer health care is back on the table in California (Capital Public Radio News)

Ohio officials have no plan to seek federal block grant for Medicaid (The Columbus Dispatch)

New York lawmakers introduce bill to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage (Albany Times Union