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End surprise medical bills

11/27/2019, 6 p.m.
Congress needs to take action to end surprise medical bills. These are the bills patients receive when they unknowingly go ...

Congress needs to take action to end surprise medical bills. These are the bills patients receive when they unknowingly go outside of their insurance network for care, without realizing their insurance will not cover them.

Several proposals for ending surprise medicals bills are currently before Congress. As our representatives deliberate these proposals, they should keep patient access to care their highest priority.

The biggest challenge with this legislation is deciding how to compensate providers when patients go out of network for care. One proposal is to use benchmark rates based on the median rates that insurance companies pay.

Pegging rates to the insurance companies’ rates is a bad idea. It gives the insurance companies too much control. They can drive down the benchmark rates by narrowing their networks and pushing out higher-cost doctors. When compensation rates drop, we could see hospitals and clinics closing their doors, especially in underserved communities.

We need to get surprise medical bills under control, but not at the cost of access to care. Fewer providers means people will have to travel farther to reach the doctors they need. They’ll go on longer waiting lists and their conditions may worsen while they wait.

As a community activist and a political leader, I have witnessed all the improvements to health care since Congress passed the Affordable Care Act under former President Obama, but I also know we have a long way to go to ensure affordable, accessible, high-quality care for every patient.

I hope Congress will find a way to stop surprise medical bills without compromising local access to care in our communities.

JAMES J. “J.J.” MINOR III

Richmond

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