Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, along with Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), released the statement below following the announcement of a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on legislation to lower health care costs announced today by the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee. The agreement will include several health care provisions championed by Bennet, Cassidy, and Hassan, including a solution to stop patients from receiving surprise bills for medical services not paid by their insurance.
“We appreciate committee leadership for their work to progress efforts to end the practice of surprise medical billing, including by adding a simple baseball-style arbitration safety valve to help providers and plans resolve these billing disputes,” said Senators Bennet, Cassidy, and Hassan. “As our discussions continue around the final details, we are encouraged that we’re one step closer to giving patients these vital protections. Patients have waited long enough, and we remain hopeful that we can get this done by the end of the year.”
In May, Bennet and Cassidy led the bipartisan Senate health care price transparency group in introducing the STOP Surprise Medical Bills Act, legislation to protect patients from surprise bills. The legislation was a product of a nearly year-long effort revising and requesting feedback on draft legislation released in September 2018 by the working group. Bennet and Cassidy formed the working group in March 2018.
The STOP Surprise Medical Bills Act addresses three scenarios in which surprise medical billing (also known as “balance billing”) would be prohibited:
- Emergency services: The bill would ensure that a patient is only required to pay the in-network cost-sharing amount required by their health plan for emergency services, regardless of them being treated at an out-of-network facility or by an out-of-network provider.
- Non-Emergency services following an emergency service at an out-of-network facility: The bill would protect patients who require additional health care services after receiving emergency care at an out-of-network facility, but cannot be moved without medical transport from the out-of-network facility.
- Non-Emergency services performed by an out-of-network provider at an in-network facility: The bill would ensure that patients owe no more than their in-network cost sharing in the case of a non-emergency service that is provided by an out-of-network provider at an in-network facility. Further, patients could not receive a surprise medical bill for services that are ordered by an in-network provider at a provider’s office, but are provided by an out-of-network provider, such as out-of-network laboratory or imaging services.