House's Lame Duck 'No Surprises Act' Is Overflowing With Really Awful Surprises
DC is outstanding at writing really good names for really bad bills.
“The Affordable Care Act” - made health insurance exponentially less affordable.
“The America Invents Act” - made it exponentially more difficult for America to invent.
And now behold the House of Representatives’ “No Surprises Act.” Which is filled to overflowing with really awful surprises.
Let us begin with it being put forward during a lame duck session of Congress. Lame duck sessions s have long been notorious for bouts of legislative heinousness.
Speaking of lame duck cronyism - that’s precisely what the “No Surprises Act” delivers. Which, unfortunately, actually isn’t a surprise.
Big (Health) Insurance is yet again attempting to dictate its terms be mandated by government. And government is happy to be yet again bribed into submission.
The problem Congress is looking to make worse in the name of solving it - is Surprise Medical Billing (SMB):
“‘Surprise medical bill’ is a term commonly used to describe charges arising when an insured individual inadvertently receives care from an out-of-network provider.
“This situation could arise in an emergency when the patient has no ability to select the emergency room, treating physicians, or ambulance providers.
“Surprise medical bills might also arise when a patient receives planned care from an in-network provider (often, a hospital or ambulatory care facility), but other treating providers brought in to participate in the patient’s care are not in the same network.”
To allegedly address this, Congress is cooking the books for Big Insurance:
“(The bill) contains Independent Dispute Resolution (IDR):
“‘An independent dispute resolution process, or IDR…solves the problem of surprise medical bills related to out-of-network care without disrupting the broader market, and without having to involve patients at all.
“‘IDR is a proven market-based approach that brings everyone to the table, making it an efficient and easy way for insurers and physicians to negotiate fairly and quickly, without added bureaucracy or costs.’
“But what’s wrong with this bill? It’s a sham IDR process. The bill is written to make it look like it creates an IDR process – but it does not. It’s sham presence – is a Congressional con.
“The sham IDR process only allows the IDR judge – to arrive at insurance company benchmark in-network prices.
“Which means the books are cooked.
“The sham IDR process – inexorably leads to rulings for the insurance companies. Over and over and over again….”
This isn’t just Congress price-fixing medical care. Which is a terrible idea.
This is Congress crony price-fixing medical care - for crony Big Insurance. Which is an even terrible-er idea.
And this terrible-er idea - isn’t even a new terrible-er idea. Surprise, surprise - Congress has attempted this Big Insurance crony socialism several times before.
We the People have repeatedly said “No” to this crony socialism.
But Big Insurance won’t let their bought-and-paid-for Congressmen take our repeated "No"s for an answer.
Having already failed as a stand-alone bill and as a secret China Virus bill rider, Congress is now trying to lamely slip this awfulness through during a lame duck session.
This terrible-er idea would likely be the coup de grace to medical care providers everywhere. Who says so? Medical care providers everywhere.
“On behalf of our nearly 5,000 member hospitals, health systems and other health care organizations, our clinician partners – including more than 270,000 affiliated physicians, 2 million nurses and other caregivers – and the 43,000 health care leaders who belong to our professional membership groups, the American Hospital Association (AHA) thanks you for your efforts to protect patients from surprise medical bills. We appreciate that this issue is a priority for you, as it is for our field and our patients….
“However, we urge you to consider several modifications to the dispute resolution process to reduce burden on all parties and ensure fair consideration of offers….”
“Let’s be clear. The new House-Senate committees’ surprise billing legislative agreement is a flat-out giveaway to already enormously profitable insurance companies at the expense of community physicians on the front lines during the pandemic.
“If this proposal were to be enacted, it will reduce patient choice in New York by compelling even more private practice physicians into forced employment arrangements.”
“Anytime Congress claims it is protecting patients, the alarm bells should start sounding….
“(T)he ‘No Surprises Act’ released late Friday night and poised to be rushed through in the final days of the lame duck Congress, is a surprise attack on patients’ access to independent physicians.
“Proponents claim the bill (which does not yet have a bill number) is needed to protect patients from so-called surprise bills. Unfortunately, this problem caused in large part by past policy failures like ACA, is not going to be fixed by 357 new pages of federal regulation.
“In fact the legislation is full of bad surprises that will result in decreased patient choice and the closure of more independent medical practices. Not to mention the fact that many provisions are likely unconstitutional.
“The last thing we need during the current crisis when patient freedoms and the Constitution are already under attack are more restrictions and unconstitutional actions.
“PLEASE CALL YOUR SENATORS AND HOUSE MEMBER ASAP.”
Did you get that? Congress is in such a hurry - this legislative monstrosity doesn’t even yet have a bill number.
The rush to crony socialism has no time for such details.
This awful bill hasn’t really changed since its pre-China Virus initial iteration. But post-China Virus - medical care certainly has.
Yet there have been for this bill no hearings – and no debate. Congress needs to hear from patients, hospitals, and physicians before fundamentally transforming their multi-trillion-dollar life-saving sector.
Allow me to again quote the AAPS:
“PLEASE CALL YOUR SENATORS AND HOUSE MEMBER ASAP.”
Thankfully, Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has thus far been firm in his opposition to this awfulness.
Let’s make sure he remains so. And that as many of his Congressional colleagues as possible join him in his correctness.
This first appeared in Red State.