Senator Lamar Alexander has been promoting the Lower Healthcare Cost Act legislation passed by the Senate HELP committee he chairs earlier this month. There are many provisions in the bill that will work to lower healthcare costs, something that we all want. His solution for surprise medical bills, however causes more problems than it solves.
The bill forces physicians to accept payment at a rate that is controlled by insurance companies by eliminating any need for them to negotiate in good faith with physicians. Disrupting free market mechanisms always results in unintended consequences, and in this case, physicians will have a harder time maintaining their practices and providing the care our patients expect. In addition, it will make it harder for our rural hospitals to stay open at time when they are already hurting.
What physicians are saying is simple. Let’s solve surprise billing in a way that protects patients from unexpected bills, but respects the physician-patient relationship by allowing an independent third-party determine the proper payment by the insurance company.
His physician colleague Senator Bill Cassidy has an alternative bill that accomplishes this. Please ask Senator Alexander to reconsider his position and accept Senator Cassidy’s amendment.
Chris Young, MD