WASHINGTON, DC – This week, Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) released bipartisan draft legislation to protect patients from receiving surprise medical bills.
Here’s What They Are Saying:
POLITICO Pro: House Energy and Commerce leaders on Tuesday released a bipartisan plan to protect patients from receiving pricey and unexpected medical bills, offering the first fleshed-out blueprint in the chamber to address the high-profile issue.
Inside Health Policy: The legislation, known as The No Surprises Act and released to stakeholders at a Tuesday (May 14) meeting, is the first piece of surprise billing legislation to come out of a health care committee this year and was drafted by Energy & Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and ranking Republican Greg Walden (OR). The measure targets surprise medical bills resulting from emergency care and situations “when a patient cannot reasonably choose” — meaning that a patient receives treatment at an in-network facility and an out-of-network anesthesiologist, or another out-of-network specialist, is brought in.
The Washington Post: “We must ensure that patients are not responsible for these outrageous bills, which is why our discussion draft removes patients from the middle,” Pallone and Walden said in a statement to Vox. “We look forward to receiving constructive feedback on ways to build upon our proposal, so we can advance a bipartisan solution that protects patients from costly surprise medical bills.”
Washington Examiner: Under the No Surprises Act, patients would need to be told which providers are out of their network and whether they could face additional charges. They would only have to pay the amount of money for their medical bills that they would have had to pay if providers were in network. The bill would disallow emergency rooms from using “balanced billing,” in which they send patients a bill charging them for the cost of medical care that a health insurer wouldn’t cover. It also provides $50 million in grants for states to use to put together databases about healthcare costs and to come up with ideas about how to lower them.
Vox: “The Energy and Commerce draft is the strongest proposal at the federal level to date,” Loren Adler, the associate director of the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy, told me. “It clearly eliminates the problem of surprise billing in both emergency and non-emergency situations.” Pallone has a powerful perch as the chair of his committee and, importantly, has the cooperation of Walden, the top Republican on the panel. The pair intend to move the bill through the committee and send it to the House floor.
Healthcare Dive: The draft is “the strongest proposal to date on the dual fronts of protecting consumers and reducing health care costs,” according to a group of Brookings Institution policy analysts writing in Health Affairs. And it comes days after President Donald Trump called on Congress to take action to ban the practice, which has come under increasing scrutiny as more people obtain insurance and experience an unexpected and high-cost charge from a provider who turns out to be not in-network.
Modern Healthcare: Lawmakers want stakeholder feedback by May 28, and specifically asked for ideas on how to ban the similar billing practices by air and ground ambulance companies. In a memo, staff said the committee “recognizes the need for solutions in these areas” as well. Air ambulances are regulated by the Transportation Department.
The Hill: Calls for action have been sparked by stories like a teacher in Texas last year who received a $108,951 bill from the hospital after his heart attack, even though he had insurance, because the hospital was not in his insurance network.