Senate won't vote on surprise-billing protections before August recess

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The Senate won't vote on legislation that includes a provision to stop out-of-network surprise medical bills before lawmakers leave for the August recess, according to The Hill.

"The Senate does not have time before the August recess to consider the bipartisan Lower Health Care Costs Act, which … includes proposals from 74 of our colleagues — 35 Republican and 39 Democratic senators," Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and ranking member Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a news release.

The Lower Health Care Costs Act — formally introduced by Mr. Alexander and Ms. Murray — addresses surprise medical bills as well as healthcare cost transparency and drug prices.

It passed the Senate health committee June 26, and Mr. Alexander had said he hoped the full Senate would vote on it in July. However, those expectations have been pushed back.

"We are engaged in very productive conversations about this legislation with our colleagues in the Senate and the House and will continue to work during August and into September to move this legislation forward," said Sens. Alexander and Murray.

Since the Senate health committee approved the legislation, there has been resistance from physician and hospital groups over the surprise-billing provision and potential payment cuts, according to The Hill.

To settle out-of-network surprise-billing disputes, the legislation requires health plans to pay providers the local median contracted commercial amount that insurers have negotiated with other providers and agreed to in that local area. 

But hospital and physician groups generally have indicated they want a legislative fix that ensures patient cost-sharing is based on an in-network rate. They support arbitration to settle out-of-network payment disputes between insurers and providers. 


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