WASHINGTON - Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said at a hearing Wednesday that Congress must ensure that patients are protected from surprise medical billing.
During an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Walden's draft version of the No Surprises Act, Walden recalled horror stories of patients who follow the rules and yet "to no fault of their own, following an emergency situation or surgery receive a six-digit bill in the mail weeks later, which they have no way of paying. It is not fair, it should not happen."
Walden drafted the bipartisan No Surprises Act alongside Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), both vocal advocates for the critical need to put an end to surprise medical billing. Their call to fix this issue has received widespread support and praise from a range of stakeholders, according to a news release from Walden's office, which continues below:
President Trump, as well as Democrat and Republican members of Congress, have joined Walden's call to protect patients from the problem of surprise medical bills that leaves families across the country with crippling amounts of financial debt. Recently, Walden attended an event at the White House where President Trump called for an end to surprise billing and laid out principles consistent with Walden's efforts to end the practice.
During the hearing, Walden highlighted key measures that his proposal would take to address the issue at hand. "First, and most importantly, this bill prohibits balance billing of patients and limits a patient's bill to their in-network cost-sharing amount in emergency situations. This is commonsense when a patient has little to no control over who gives them life-saving care and can hardly be expected to make sure everyone is in-network."
Another provision in the draft No Surprises Act would require providers who currently balance bill the patients to instead receive payment from the patient's insurer at the median in-network rate for the service they provided in that area. Last year, Oregon passed similar legislation to address this issue.
"My home state of Oregon passed legislation on surprise billing last year with a similar approach, and other states have passed their own models that create an arbitration process for providers and insurers to come to an agreement on a reasonable payment -- and there are combinations of the two," said Walden. "Under our draft, these state laws would remain in place."
Walden stressed that while there are many competing interests on the issue, the focus must be on protecting the patient. Protecting patients, Walden said, "must be put at the forefront of this discussion and I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do just that."
To read Walden's full remarks during today's hearing, click here. Click here to view Walden's remarks during Wednesday's hearing