Protecting patients from surprise medical bills

By Sen. Sherrod Brown - Contributing columnist

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This week, we secured a bipartisan agreement that would finally protect patients from out-of-control, surprise medical bills. We’re pushing Congressional leaders to include our compromise in the end-of-year funding bills that we expect to pass this month.

We hear too many stories of patients who wake up from surgery, expecting to pay their standard co-pay, only to find out the anesthesiologist was out-of-network, or a doctor sends a sample out for analysis, unaware that the pathology lab doesn’t take the patient’s insurance, and the patient is responsible for covering the cost.

In all of these cases, the patient doesn’t have the time or the information to make a choice to avoid a crippling medical bill. And this has only become more urgent during the pandemic.

If someone has COVID-19 and needs to be rushed to the hospital for care, the last thing they should have to worry about is whether the ambulance is in-network.

This bipartisan compromise incorporates many of the ideas from my STOP Surprise Medical Bills Act that I introduced with colleagues of both parties last fall.

It would ensure that patients are only required to pay the in-network co-pay required by their insurance for emergency services, even if they’re treated at an out-of-network facility or by an out-of-network provider. It would also create a framework for healthcare providers and insurance companies to resolve payment disputes without involving the patient. Ohioans dealing with medical emergencies have enough to worry about, and we all know how frustrating it is to be caught in the middle of a billing dispute between your doctor and your insurance company. There’s no reason patients need to be involved in these kinds of medical billing issues, and this bill takes them out of the crosshairs.

This bill doesn’t solve every issue, but it is a huge step forward for patients. I wrote to Congressional leaders of both parties this week and urged them: Let’s stand on the side of the people we serve, and finally fix surprise billing. I’m hopeful that by end of the year we’ll get this done, and Ohio patients will have one less insurance company headache to worry about.

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By Sen. Sherrod Brown

Contributing columnist

Sherrod Brown is the senior U.S. senator from Ohio.

Sherrod Brown is the senior U.S. senator from Ohio.