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Trump Outlines Plan to Tackle Surprise Medical Billing

Jaime Rosenberg
President Trump today outlined a plan to tackle surprise medical billing and voiced his commitment to holding insurance companies and hospitals accountable.
A day after HHS announced that they finalized a rule requiring the disclosure of drug prices in television ads, President Trump further reaffirmed the administration’s commitment to providing more transparency in the healthcare system as he outlined a plan to tackle surprise medical billing.

Calling the issue one of the biggest concerns Americans have about healthcare, Trump said the administration will hold insurance companies and hospitals accountable. “We’re determined to end surprise medical billing for American patients, and that’s happening right now,” he said in a speech at the White House.

Trump outlined several guiding principles to address the issue:
  • In emergency care situations, patients should never bear the burden of out-of-network costs they did not agree to pay and balance billing should be prohibited
  • When receiving scheduled non-emergency care, patients should be given a clear and honest bill upfront with the prices for all services and the out-of-pocket costs they would be responsible for
  • Patients should not receive surprise medical bills from out-of-network providers they did not choose themselves
  • Legislation should protect patients without increasing federal healthcare expenditures and should lead to more competition and choice
During the announcement, Trump welcomed several patients impacted by surprise medical billing to the podium, including a patient who was surprised with a $17,000 bill following a urine test and a patient who had a heart attack and was sent a $110,000 bill following his hospital stay.

Martin Makary, MD, a surgical oncologist and chief of the Johns Hopkins Islet Transplant Center, also joined the president and voiced his support for ending surprise medical billing, saying: "Half of women with stage 4 breast cancer report being harassed by medical bills. That’s a disgrace to my specialty, that’s a disgrace to my medical profession, and that’s a disgrace to this country. We can do better.”

“Not a pleasant surprise. A very unpleasant surprise,” said Trump of these surprise medical bills, adding that he wants to put an end to the issue quickly. Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said he hopes to have a bill ready by July.

Following the announcement, Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr, D-New Jersey, and Ranking Member Greg Walden, R-Oregon, released a joint statement voicing their commitment to working on bipartisan legislation. “No family should be left in financial ruin through no fault of their own, which is why we have been working together on a bipartisan solution to protect patients that we hope to announce soon,” they said.

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) also released a statement, saying they have worked with employers, consumers, brokers, and other healthcare stakeholders to advocate for solutions to protect patients from surprise medical bills, including signing on to a letter asking Congress to pass legislation that would:
  • Prohibit doctors from sending a surprise medical bill to patients in cases of emergency, involuntary care, or instances where the patient had no choice in the provider
  • Require facilities to inform patients of their doctors’ network status and possible options for seeking care from another provider
  • Set reimbursement rates that will not increase premiums or impact access to care by basing amounts on market rates determined by contracted and reasonable amounts paid by insurers to similar doctors in the geographical area of a percentage of Medicare
  • Ensure that protections apply to all health plans
  • Avoid the use of complex, costly, and opaque arbitration processes that can keep patients in the middle and lead to higher premiums


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AHIP, Employer Groups Seek Congressional Action on Surprise Medical Bills
 
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