Leaders of the House and Senate health committees announced Sunday they have reached a deal on a package of health care legislation including measures to tackle surprise medical billing.
“I do not think it is possible to write a bill that has broader agreement than this among Senate and House Democrats and Republicans on Americans’ number one financial concern: what they pay out of their own pockets for health care,” Alexander said in a statement.
The legislation could pass as part of a spending bill later this month, Walden said earlier in the week.
Details Still Unclear
The agreement is a change from the surprise billing legislation approved by both the House Energy and Commerce (
Both committees approved legislation but saw the bills stalled by debate over disagreements in each chamber about how to settle disputes between insurers and providers.
There’s broad agreement on ending what’s known as balance billing, where providers bill patients directly for charges insurers won’t cover. Both committees approved bills that largely force providers to accept a set rate but some lawmakers want doctors to be able seek higher fees via an arbitration process.
Hospitals Remain Wary
The change didn’t win over the nation’s largest hospital lobby, the American Hospital Association, which has pushed back on surprise billing proposals this year.
“Unfortunately, unless this proposal is much improved over previous bills that rely on a benchmark rate, it remains highly problematic and would jeopardize patient access to hospital care, particularly in rural communities,” Rick Pollack, president and chief executive officer of the trade group, said in a statement.
Hospitals and provider specialty groups have complained that forcing them to accept a typical rate for their services gives too much power to insurers, which negotiate those rates, and their provider networks.
The new agreement, however, doesn’t have the support of a key Senate Democrat: Sen.
“Senator Murray believes the overall agreement takes important steps forward on a number of issues impacting patients and families, and is working with some members of her caucus on concerns they still have,” Helen Hare, a spokeswoman for Murray, said in an email. “She didn’t want to sign onto a press release until those were worked through.”