“It’s a rip off and it needs to end.”
WASHINGTON, DC – Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) went on MSNBC to answer questions from Katy Tur on ending surprise medical billing, a practice Walden calls a “rip-off” that “needs to end.”
To see the committee’s bipartisan, bicameral, White House-endorsed work on surprise medical billing, please click here.
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Well what we do know Katy is 1-in-5 people who go to the emergency room for care walk away with a bill not covered by their insurance—even if they have insurance. That’s called a surprise medical bill. And so I don’t know each of the circumstances here but let’s face it, we know globally prior to this pandemic, it was an enormous rip-off. People were getting gouged when they went in for care because some of these providers weren’t in network, some have been squeezed out. Some private equity groups have bought out emergency practices, taken them out of network, and then the consumer got jammed. It’s a rip-off and it needs to end.
We have bipartisan legislation that would stop surprise medical billing and that’s what needs to happen here now. We didn’t ask for this problem. It came upon us from this industry. This especially is a time when people are the sickest. And they’re going into the emergency rooms that they run the risk of getting surprise medical billing. Now I know some insurers I’ve talked to have said we are simply going to pay the in-network rate during this period for these sorts of cases. Period. And we are going to waive our co-pays and deductibles and all of that. So, they’re stepping up and others are as well.
In the “Phase 3” legislation we passed, we said you cannot price gouge for the test. In fact, we are going to make those free across the board whether you have insurance or not because we want testing to occur.
Well I wish I had the answer to that. I’ll tell you. You take on this big complex out there and it pushes back pretty hard. I know that some of the private equity firms have spent 50-60 million dollars attacking our legislation, television ads and all. Other entities are pushing back one way or another. Look, we should sit together. If there are differences, we aren’t trying to cause anybody harm here. We’re trying to protect the consumers. We should work this out. We had a plan that I thought worked very well. It has some areas in it that we can make adjustments. We want providers to get paid fairly. We want hospitals to be treated fairly. We want investors treated fairly. We just want consumers treated fairly and right now they’re getting ripped off. So, I hope maybe in the middle of the next go around, we can get this done.
The other thing is, had we done that, we’d achieve enough savings federally to fully fund our community health centers for four years. They’re only funded through November. That’s it. How is that allowed to happen? It keeps being pushed off. We need to resolve both of these issues. We need to do it now.