Legislation Introduced to Protect Patients from Surprise Out of Network Medical Billings

Despite all the political bickering that has been going on in Washington, there is a bipartisan group of senators who just introduced legislation to protect patients from receiving massive, unexpected medical bills.   

The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), comes as the House also introduced legislation this week, and President Trump called for action. 

The legislation is written to protect patients from getting massive, surprise medical bills when they get care from a doctor who is not in their insurance network.  The current system of healthcare insurance networks restricts patients from having free choice of providers and medical facilities. Often, this means that a patient is unable to receive the best care possible, making them have to settle for substandard care. 

Even when a patient tries to stay in their network, they often find that some out of network caregiver sneaks in and leaves behind an unexpected bill. A practice that has become very common when a patient goes the hospital for a surgical procedure with an in-network provider, but the anesthesiologist who the patient had no input into hiring is usually out of network. 

"The patient should be the reason for the care, not an excuse for a bill," Cassidy said at a press conference Thursday when he unveiled the legislation. 

Hassan, a Democrat, noted that she joined Trump at the White House for an event last week to call for an end to surprise bills. "There is strong bipartisan momentum behind ending the absurd practice of surprise medical bills," she said. "Senator Cassidy and I were at the White House last week to join the president as he spoke out on the importance of addressing this issue." 

Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) also joined in unveiling the bill on Thursday.  

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate's Health Committee, is working on his proposal with the panel's top Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), that he hopes to unveil in June. 

"We have been trying to take committee leadership's concerns," Cassidy said when asked about working with the panel's leadership. 

The bill introduced Thursday by Cassidy and Hassan would use an outside arbitrator as a back-up to help set the price that insurers must pay medical providers after the legislation takes the patient out of the middle while the House bill sets a payment rate without using arbitration.

The practice of “surprising” patients with unexpected, exorbitant bills needs to stop and insurance companies need to become responsible for reasonable out of network medical expenses