December 13, 2019
Congress Releases Two Surprise Medical Bill Proposals – one promising, one harmful
This week, Congress released two new proposals aimed at addressing surprise medical bills.
On Wednesday, December 11, the House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and Ranking Member Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) announced that they have reached a bipartisan agreement on addressing surprise medical bills. The Neal-Brady framework released by the committee states that the proposal would hold patients harmless from surprise medical bills and allow insurance plans and providers to come to an agreement on payment without interference. If they cannot come to an agreement, there will be an independent mediated negotiation process to resolve billing disputes. Additionally, the proposed framework includes provisions that will increase transparency of information on provider networks and preserve existing state laws that address surprise billing. ASA is encouraged by the Neal-Brady proposal. ASA released a statement thanking the House Ways and Means Committee for its thoughtful and deliberative work on this issue.
Last weekend, three Congressional Committee leaders - Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Representative Greg Walden (R-OR), Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee - released a revised Lower Health Care Costs proposal which included an agreement on surprise medical bills. Unfortunately, these provisions are a continuation of the same flawed proposals ASA has previously opposed. On December 10, ASA released a statement expressing its strong opposition to the surprise medical bill provisions included in the Alexander-Pallone-Walden Lower Health Care Cost proposal. ASA has grave concerns about the impact of the Alexander-Pallone-Walden proposal on local physician practices. The committee summary of the proposal tracks closely with legislation previously authored by Senator Alexander and Congressmen Pallone and Walden, which were opposed by ASA.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the previous Alexander and Pallone legislation would slash physician payments by 15 to 20%. Additionally, CBO noted that under the legislation the “majority of health care is delivered inside patients’ networks,” and more than 80 percent of the estimated budgetary effects of the legislation would arise from changes to in-network payment rates.” ASA believes the wrong approach to protecting patients from surprise bills is the Alexander and Pallone approach of weakening physician practices across the country with massive payment cuts, while also penalizing physicians who are actually ‘in-network.’
ASA supports further consideration and development of the Neal-Brady proposal and strongly opposes the flawed Alexander-Pallone-Walden proposal.
Take action today by making a phone call and writing a letter to Congress on these surprise medical bill proposals.