Congress works to break gridlock on surprise medical billing

Washington DC Bureau
Data pix.

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – It’s one of the few healthcare issues Democrats, Republicans, and President Trump can agree on: no more surprise medical bills.

They want to take patients off the hook for the unexpected and often pricey charges from medical providers outside of their insurance network.

“Is this high on the president’s priority list?,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-TN, asked Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

“This is a very high priority for the president,” Azar said. “We want to get a bipartisan, bicameral solution passed.”

However, Congress still can’t decide who should pick up the tab: insurers or providers.

Both industries are fighting hard for their preferred payment dispute solution. 

“Arbitration is the best one,” Tom Nickels, the executive vice president of the American Hospital Association, told a Senate committee.

“Adopting an in-network guarantee is the best option,” said Benedic Ippolito, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

This disagreement derailed the effort to end surprise medical billing last year, but now Congress is committed to getting a bill to President Trump’s desk before summer.

“That could all be done by the end of May,” Alexander said.

If the chairman of the Senate Health Committee gets his way, the legislation would also lower prescription drug costs and fully fund community health centers for the next five years.

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