27 senators urge inclusion of surprise-billing deal in year-end package

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Twenty-seven senators are urging Senate leaders to include a measure to ban surprise billing in a year-end government funding package, according to The Hill. 

Democratic and Republican leaders of four committees in the House and Senate reached a deal to end surprise medical billing Dec. 11. 

The committees decided that the best approach would be banning physicians and hospitals from charging patients fees their insurer will not cover and holding patients harmless when they receive emergency care from out-of-network providers. Payment rates would be based on the median amount insurers in a given area pay in-network providers and also allows providers to enter into arbitration to gain higher reimbursements.

But the fate of the bill is undecided because it is unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will agree to include it in the funding package. 

"There will never be a broader bipartisan, bicameral solution to ending surprise medical billing, and we should deal with it now," the 27 senators wrote to Mr. McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.,  according to The Hill. "Patients cannot wait any longer."

The deal reached Dec. 11 has support from unions, insurers and consumer groups. The White House has also expressed support. 

But the American Medical Association and American Hospital Association expressed concerns about the legislation. 

The AMA said it is worried that small physician practices might not be able to receive fair compensation under the arbitration process outlined in the bill. The AHA said it wants to see penalties for health plans that fail to reimburse providers for out-of-network care and clarification that out-of-network providers are responsible for managing their own notice and consent process with patients.

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