To the editor,
As a practicing physician, I believe it is critical for the health and wellbeing of my patients that Congress deal with the “surprise billing” issue— but do so in the right way.
Surprise billing is when a patient receives an unexpected medical charge because of disagreements between providers and insurers, often for care that a patient receives in emergency situations or when he or she gets care at an in-network facility from an out-of-network physician.
I’m glad to see that Congress has begun to act to protect patients from surprise bills. However, I’m concerned that some of the approaches favored by our elected leaders could end up doing more harm than good — for both patients and doctors.
Sen. Lamar Alexander’s Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019, for example, includes a federal “benchmarking” approach that could end up undercompensating doctors and hospitals for the care they provide, further increasing provider consolidation and making it harder for patients to access care.
Congress should instead focus on the IDR approach as encapsulated by the STOP Surprise Medical Bills Act and the Protecting People From Surprise Medical Bills Act, because IDR also saves patients from surprise medical bills while also promoting fair negotiating in pricing disputes between doctors and medical facilities and insurance companies.
I agree with the author and IDR has been tried in states such as New York and has proved highly effective. It is vitally important that IDR is included in any final bill and that Sen. Alexander not try to attach this important bill to other legislative proposals in an effort to fast-track an ineffective solution.
Dr. Gil Thayer
Hardin Medical Center