Ending the practice of hospitals and providers sending surprise medical bills to patients is a perfect example of how Congress and President Trump can work together to reduce out of pocket health care costs for Americans.
About twenty percent of patients who go to the emergency room end up several weeks later with a sky-high bill that they did not expect. I would imagine that most Tennesseans have either experienced this or have heard stories about friends and family members struggling to stretch their paychecks to cover a surprise medical bill in the mail.
Here is a story that I heard recently: Todd is a father from Knoxville who took his son to an emergency room after a bicycle accident. After his son was treated, Todd paid $150 copay because the emergency room was “in-network” for his health insurance, and they headed home.
Todd was surprised when he received a bill in the mail for $1,800 – even though the emergency room was “in-network,” the doctor who treated his son was not.
Todd wrote to me, trying to figure out why it is so hard to understand what health care really costs and said, “If I’m expected to be a conscientious consumer of my own health care needs, I need a little more help.”
There is a bipartisan consensus that surprise billing is a problem, and resolving it has the opportunity to have bipartisan support in Congress.
Last week, I was at the White House with President Trump when he said he wanted Congress “to pass legislation to protect American patients. For too long, surprise billings … have left some patients with thousands of dollars of unexpected and unjustified charges for services they did not know anything about and, sometimes, services they did not have any information on.”
I told him that, working with my colleagues in the Senate health committee I chair, we plan to have a bipartisan solution to end the practice of surprise medical billing on the floor of the U.S. Senate by July of this year.
I was glad to hear President Trump tell me we will have the full support of the White House as we work to end surprise billing in Congress. This bill will be a part of a broader piece of legislation I’m working on to lower the cost of health care in the United States.
The federal government is not going to lower the cost of health care overnight, but I believe there are steps we can take that would make a real difference to American families. And I think that getting rid of the harmful practice of surprise medical billing will be one of those important steps.
Lamar Alexander has been a senior senator from Tennessee since 2003.