Just Like Senator Cassidy Says... We Must End Surprise Medical Billing!
For many months now, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) has been talking about different solutions for Surprise Medical Billing (aka the bills you didn't know about but get for thousands of dollars after a procedure has already been performed...). There are many policy solutions floating around the senate on this issue but the Bipartisan Policy Center just released a report that has some good ideas in it.
They offer a Free Market approach to this problem and has support from both sides of the aisle. Here's a bit of what they prescribe as a solution:
“Patients receive ‘surprise medical bills’ when they receive services from an out-of-network provider at an in-network facility. In 2017, 18% of all emergency visits and 16% of in-network inpatient hospital stays had at least one out-of-network charge. Generally, patients receive services from certain specialty physicians who practice in hospital settings, including emergency physicians, anesthesiologists, radiologists, and pathologists who are unwilling to accept in-network insurance rates. This trend has escalated as hospitals are increasingly using third-party staffing companies to contract with physicians and ambulances. These physicians can often use the threat of staying out-of-network to negotiate for higher in-network rates.”
“An early and bipartisan version of Senate HELP Committee legislation tied provider reimbursement to a benchmark payment that represents the median in-network rate. This decision was influenced by a CBO report that found greater federal savings associated with using a benchmark rate. CBO has calculated the proposal would reduce commercial rates by 1% and reduce the federal deficit by $25 billion over 10 years.”
On the other hand, “CBO estimates that allowing arbitration in some cases would increase costs relative to an option that tied all payments to a benchmark set at median rates.”
“We support a policy that relies on private negotiations between the parties to resolve the problem, backed by a limit on payments tied to a median rate as recommended in the bipartisan proposal originally reported by the Senate HELP Committee. Arbitration is unnecessary in our view and risks increasing costs, which could drive up premiums for consumers. Further, arbitration benefits larger group practices that can afford to hire attorneys over small and independent physicians’ practices.”
This market based approach to surprise medical bills might just be what the Doctor ordered! We'll continue to monitor this and other healthcare policy issues and keep y'all up to date on what policymakers are saying!