Aggressive Lobbying Effort Creating A Drag On Legislative Momentum Behind Surprise Medical Bills
Doctors Patient Unity, one of the groups which has been out front in efforts against a legislative approach to protect patients from surprise medical bills, has spent $28 million on ads targeting states where key senators are running for reelection. The role of air ambulances and their charges are also playing a role in this debate.
The CT Mirror:
Lobbying War Stalls Congress' Attempt To End 'Surprise Medical Bills'
President Donald Trump has said the practice of surprise billing “must end.” Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress back legislation that would do just that, shielding patients from everything but the deductible and co-payments their insurance requires. And before its summer recess, Congress seemed poised to pass legislation addressing surprise medical billing. (Radelat, 9/20)
Seen Those Ads Asking You To Call Tina Smith On Surprise Medical Bills? Here’s What They Are About.
In recent weeks, Minnesota television viewers have been blitzed with ads urging them to tell U.S. Sen. Tina Smith to oppose “government rate setting” for payments to doctors and hospitals. The group behind the ads, Doctor Patient Unity, spent more than $28 million to air them in states where senators are running for re-election next year, including $2 million targeting Smith, the New York Times reported last week. The sources of that money were a mystery. Doctor Patient Unity is a so-called “dark money” political action group that doesn’t list its members or disclose its donors. (Salisbury, 9/20)
Air Ambulance Services Face Scrutiny Over Surprise Billing Issues
Over two-thirds of air ambulance rides in 2017 were out of network, according to a March 2019 Government Accountability Office report. The median price for air ambulance transport in a helicopter in 2017 was $36,400, the GAO found. Even if insurance does cover some of that cost, a consumer can still face tens of thousands of dollars in unexpected bills for what’s left — a practice known as balance billing. Congress is trying to address that issue as part of a broader effort to rein in so-called surprise medical bills, which patients receive for care their insurer won’t cover, either for emergency services or by providers they may not choose, like an anesthesiologist or radiologist, even when a patient is at an in-network facility. (McIntire, 9/23)
Also in the news about action on Capitol Hill -
Pelosi Rejects 'Socialist' Attacks On Her Prescription Drug Bill
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled legislation this week that would give the federal government sweeping new authority to regulate and lower the cost of prescription drugs. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declared the bill dead on arrival and told Politico it amounts to "socialist price controls." In an exclusive interview with NPR, Pelosi suggested McConnell was in "the pocket of the pharmaceutical industry" and noted that President Trump shares her view that negotiating drug prices is good policy. "As the president said in the course of his run for office and since: 'We're going to negotiate like crazy. We're going to negotiate like crazy.' So perhaps Mitch is talking about the president, as well." (Davis, 9/20)