Administration considering ban on “surprise” medical bills
Thursday, May 28, 2020
Posted by: Elissa Rodrigues
The White House is renewing a push to end “surprise” medical bills — possibly as part of the next coronavirus rescue package — in a bid to deliver on protecting insured patients from sometimes staggering costs of emergency or out-of-network care.
Trump administration officials are floating a plan that would outlaw health care providers from putting patients on the hook for thousands of dollars in expenses — but without mandating how doctors and hospitals would recover their costs from insurers, according to administration officials, Capitol Hill aides and industry lobbyists familiar with discussions. Billing disputes would have to be worked out on a case-by-case basis.
Surprise billing was supposed to be last year’s easy health policy fix. Industry lobbyists, consumer advocates and lawmakers all agreed insured patients shouldn’t receive high bills when they’re taken to the emergency room or inadvertently treated out of network.
But the issue became the object of months of fierce lobbying and rivalries between congressional health committees, though the matter has receded during the pandemic. Congress agreed to cover the cost of Covid-19 testing in an earlier rescue package, and the Trump administration blocked providers that accept any part of a $175 billion industry bailout fund from sending unexpected bills to coronavirus patients.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi included that prohibition in the lower chamber’s latest rescue proposal. Administration officials now want to pass a blanket prohibition on all hospitals and physicians and deliver a pocketbook health issue for President Donald Trump to tout on the campaign trail.
A White House representative wouldn't comment on the proposal.
So-called balance billing can hit insured patients with staggering unanticipated medical bills if they inadvertently get treated at an out-of-network facility, such as in an emergency situation. Even people who go to an in-network facility may later discover one of the physicians wasn’t part of the network.
But despite mounting public concern and a flurry of legislative activity, Congress over the past year couldn’t resolve a standoff involving hospitals, physicians, employers and insurers that mired bipartisan proposals and pitted powerful health committees against each other. Efforts to help hospitals and physicians during the pandemic have left the outlook murky.
Source: Politico (https://www.politico.com/news/2020/05/27/white-house-surprise-billing-healthcare-coronavirus-rescue-285780)