September 30, 2019
Key House Committee Announces Strategy for Surprise Medical Bills
Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal released a letter to committee members
announcing the intended strategy for his Committee to consider legislation addressing surprise medical bills. In the letter, he outlines the proposed legislation, which would include holding patients harmless from surprise medical bills, and using a negotiated rulemaking process to identify standards for rates for surprise bills. Negotiated rulemaking is a supplement to traditional rulemaking and is a process in which representatives of relevant federal agencies and key stakeholders work through a committee structure to reach consensus on what can ultimately become a proposed rule or regulation.
According to the letter, the Committee has “consistently encountered disagreement among stakeholders over reimbursement rates for out-of-network surprise bills and the extent to which a dispute resolution process can determine those rates,” which is why the negotiated rulemaking process is being proposed. The letter states that the three relevant federal agencies – The Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor and the Department of Treasury – and key stakeholders would form a committee to identify standards for rates for surprise bills, as well as determine “how and if dispute resolution should be included, within certain predefined paramaters that ensure health care costs will not increase from the process.” This process would conclude with proposed rulemaking with a public comment period.
Ending surprise medical bills, including assuring fair payments for anesthesiologists, is a top priority for the American Society of Anesthesiologists. ASA supports H.R. 3502, the Protecting People from Surprise Medical Bills Act (“Ruiz-Roe”), which currently has nearly 100 cosponsors. ASA has opposed the legislation passed by the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee as well as the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The House Ways and Means Committee and House Education and Labor Committees both also have jurisdiction over the issue and action by the Committees is expected in the coming weeks.
ASA will continue to monitor all legislative activity on surprise medical bills, and encourages members to find out if their representative is a co-sponsor of H.R. 3502
and if not, encourage them to co-sponsor this legislation
to address the issue.