ACEP Statement on Proposed Surprise Billing Approach from House Energy and Commerce and Senate HELP Committees

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Following the release of details from a surprise billing agreement between Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) issued the following statement:

“While ACEP shares Congress’s commitment to protecting patients from surprise bills, we are deeply concerned that the Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019 tips the scales too far in favor of insurers when it comes to settling payment disputes once the patient is out of the middle. Despite the life-saving treatment provided to millions of Americans each day, the median in-network payment amount for an emergency physician’s services are almost always less than $750. To ensure patient access to emergency care is protected, the qualifying threshold for using independent dispute resolution (IDR) should be eliminated, or that process will remain out of reach on over 99 percent of the services provided by emergency physicians.

"In a letter sent to Congress last week, nearly 900 physician practices across medical specialties outlined the potential dangers of eliminating what few incentives remain for insurers to negotiate fairly, which will drive further consolidation within the health care system, and trigger ensuing cost increases. The letter also notes that recent estimates calculated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) have demonstrated that eliminating or at least significantly reducing a qualifying threshold for IDR would have little to no impact on scoring at all.

"Because of the long-term, significant impact any solution will have on access for to care for patients and the broader health care system, ACEP encourages Congress to keep working on finding the right solution. When it comes to surprise billing, patients deserve a cure, not a band-aid.”

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is the national medical society representing emergency medicine. Through continuing education, research, public education and advocacy, ACEP advances emergency care on behalf of its 40,000 emergency physician members, and the more than 150 million Americans they treat on an annual basis. For more information, visit www.acep.org and www.emergencyphysicians.org.

Contact: Maggie McGillick | mmcgillick@acep.org | Twitter @EmergencyDocs

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