Surprise medical billing is an issue that crosses party lines. Republican, Democrat or independent – anyone can be hit by surprise medical bills after receiving care they thought would be covered by insurance. That’s why we need a bipartisan solution to solve this problem.

The good news – Congress has multiple solutions to consider. The bad news – not all of them solve this problem the right way. In fact, some could only make things harder for patients and their families. Take a proposal known as benchmarking, which is included in multiple pieces of legislation.

Benchmarking would enable the government to dictate prices for physicians performing out-of-network care, using insurers’ in-network averages as a guide. This misguided approach would skew the health care marketplace, giving insurance companies a huge advantage and undercutting the ability of providers to continue offering the same level of care. It could potentially force many at-risk hospitals – the ones serving vulnerable rural communities – to consolidate or close down altogether, threatening access and increasing costs.

Congress should reject benchmarking as a solution and instead work to pass a bill that includes independent dispute resolution, which would allow health care providers and insurance companies to enter into a fair negotiation process. That way, payments reflect the true market value of services and no one is given an unfair advantage.

Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King should work together to support independent dispute resolution and fight for it to be incorporated into a final legislative solution to the problem of surprise billing.

Kathryn Lord


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