Committee chairman blocks bipartisan bill to reduce surprise medical billing

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has blocked a bipartisan bill aimed at reducing surprise medical bills, which lawmakers have been trying to pass for more than a year, according to a Dec. 8 The Hill report.

Democratic and Republican leaders of three committees — House Energy and Commerce, House Education and Labor and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions — have been fighting for their bill for months. On Dec. 2, more than 60 organizations representing consumers, employers and unions sent a letter to Congress urging it to pass legislation that protects patients from surprise medical bills.

Proponents of the measure are aiming to attach the bill to the upcoming end-of-the-year funding package, so Mr. Neal's blockage leaves little time for resuscitation. The senator favors his own proposal aimed at reducing surprise medical bills, The Hill reported.

The bill supported by bipartisan lawmakers from the three committees favors an approach called benchmarking, in which payment rates are based on the median amount insurers in a given area pay in-network healthcare providers. The benchmarking approach is supported by unions, insurers and consumer groups, according to The Hill.

The proposal brought forth by Mr. Neal and Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, favors a process in which outside adjudicators would decide payment rates through arbitration. This approach is supported by hospital groups, according to The Hill.

A spokesperson for Mr. Neal told The Hill the representative "has not seen updated legislative text of any new offer." Lawmakers backing the benchmarking approach said they have made several offers and concessions, though their most recent has not yet taken legislative form.

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