Health

Conservative Coalition, Lawmakers Warn Government Against Rate Setting For Medical Bills

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Mary Margaret Olohan Social Issues Reporter
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  • Lawmakers warn against government-dictated price controls for surprise medical billing.
  • A group of bipartisan lawmakers showed opposition to a bill related to rate setting Tuesday, and Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi urging her to reject rate setting proposals. 
  • “We oppose price controls as a solution to the issue of surprise medical billing,” lawmakers wrote in the letter.

Lawmakers warned Congress against government-dictated price controls for surprise medical billing in a Tuesday hearing on Capitol Hill.

Republican lawmakers urged Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to reject proposals offering government-dictated price controls as a solution to surprise medical billing in a Monday letter. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers also voiced their concerns in a Tuesday hearing on Capitol Hill.

“We oppose price controls as a solution to the issue of surprise medical billing,” 39 representatives, led by Republican Maryland Rep. Andy Harris, wrote in the Monday letter. “By design, placing such price controls on purely private transactions would reduce access to care, increase the power of the federal government, and result in negative, unintended consequences.”

Surprise billing occurs when an out-of-network doctor treats patients who go to an in-network hospital, and an insurance company does not pay the full amount for the visit. Providers can bill patients for the remainder of the bill, The Hill reported.

“To be clear, we believe that patients should be protected from surprise medical bills, which can place a heavy financial burden on individuals that received care outside of their insurance network,” the letter said. (RELATED: Democrats Highlight Race, Downplay Need For Infanticide Legislation At Born-Alive Hearing)

“In pursuing such protections, there exist several proposals that hold patients harmless, increase transparency and resolve disputes that arise from surprise bills,” it added.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle showed opposition to a House Committee on Education and Labor bill related to rate setting Tuesday.

“We cannot go in the direction of rate setting,” Republican Georgia Rep. Richard Wayne Allen noted during a hearing. “I do have serious concerns with this legislation.”

“I have spent a lot of time talking with providers in my district and they have serious concerns with this legislation,” he continued.

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Democratic Washington Rep. Kimberly Schrier also spoke out against rate setting and warned the bill “puts hospitals at risk.”

“This bill as written really does put a thumb on the scale. We have to think about what will happen down the line,” she said.

Rate setting could severely impact rural hospitals, Republican Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe added.

“I’ve lost 12 rural hospitals in the state of Tennessee, 12. You lose a rural hospital, where you are, and your county, the city where you live, is in real trouble, and that’s my fear,” he said.

The House Education and Labor Committee approved the bill Tuesday, despite lawmakers’ concerns, The Hill reported.

The lawmakers comments come after a conservative coalition, including Heritage Action for America, Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity and others warned the House Ways and Means Committee and the Education and Labor Committee in Monday letters against government rate setting.

Lawmakers dispute over how much the insurer has to pay doctors, according to The Hill. The Education and Labor Committee wants to set payment rates based on median amounts paid for the service in that area and allow the option of higher-cost bills going to arbitration. The Ways and Means Committee would rather give an outside arbiter payment decisions.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Health Committee back the Education and Labor approach, while doctor and hospital groups back the Ways and Means approach, according to The Hill.

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