Congress’ year-end legislation takes an important step forward in protecting patients from surprise medical bills.
For too long, patients have been hit with expensive and unexpected bills for care they received in emergency rooms and in-network hospitals – a predatory business strategy practiced most often by providers backed by private equity firms.
The legislation will finally put an end to this indefensible practice. By ending surprise bills in certain situations, including for air ambulance transports, medical emergencies will no longer result in exorbitant surprise bills, giving families much-needed peace of mind and financial relief amid a national health and economic crisis.
Though this legislation represents important progress, it should be considered a first step toward lowering health care costs for families.
By relying solely on arbitration to resolve billing disputes – a solution lobbied for by the private equity firms and providers that are the most egregious offenders in surprise billing – the legislation codifies into families’ premiums the cost of arbitration as well as some of the revenues the firms and providers have extracted from the system.
As the federal government develops and implements these rules, vigilance is critical to ensure full enforcement of the patient protections and guard against allowing more costs to be shifted to families’ premiums.
We look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to further strengthen these protections and lower health care costs for families.