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Economists: Leave Surprise Medical Bill Problem to Marketplace

A letter to Congress and President Donald Trump signed by 160 economists warns the imposition of health care rate setting as a way to fix surprise billing could ultimately hurt patients by leading to provider shortages.

In early May, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) pushed to include health care price-setting in a fourth phase of coronavirus relief legislation. Consumers receive surprise bills when they unknowingly are treated by providers outside their insurance networks.

The letter, signed by the Coalition Against Rate-Setting and dated April 28, states price controls, such as pegging provider reimbursement to some kind of benchmark, “would hurt access to care, especially for patients in rural areas.”

The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) praised the economists for coming forward as the nation struggles to protect critical health care workers treating an infectious virus.

“Doctors and hospital workers are putting their lives on the line every day, yet some in Congress want to see their pay slashed overnight,” wrote TPA President David Williams on the organization’s website. “Patients need choices, not another failed federal foray into healthcare.”

Trying to use benchmark rate setting to control surprise bills would further hamper the nation’s ability to fight the coronavirus pandemic, Williams says.

“Lawmakers and the Trump administration must continue to do everything they can to help health care providers help patients,” wrote Williams.


—Staff reports


AnneMarie Schieber
AnneMarie Schieber
AnneMarie Schieber is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Health Care News, Heartland's monthly newspaper for health care reform.


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