Harvard health professor: Ending surprise billing is physicians' 'moral test'

It is the duty of physician companies — not Congress — to end surprise billing, Ashish Jha, MD, a health policy professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, wrote in an op-ed for The Boston Globe.

Estimates say more than half of American adults have received a surprise bill from a medical provider they thought was in network, Dr. Jha said. He argues surprise bills aren't really an accident, but "an intentional exploitation of weaknesses in our healthcare system" by physician groups who refuse to contract with insurers.

"These physician groups will argue that insurers aren't negotiating in good faith, and while sometimes that's true, the primary culprit of this deception has been physician companies whose business model is to exploit patients when they are most vulnerable — in an emergency or under anesthesia," he wrote.

While mandatory arbitration has been floated as a possible solution, Dr. Jha thinks capping how much providers can charge for out-of-network services is a better solution that will encourage physician companies to negotiate with insurers.

"We all took an oath to 'do no harm.' To financially ruin our patients when they are sick shows a moral rot in our community," Dr. Jha said. "If we don't voluntarily stop this practice, Congress will eventually stop us. And shame on us for making Congress do what we should do on our own."

To read the full op-ed, click here.

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