We must address unplanned medical billing
If you or a loved one has ever experienced a medical emergency, you know how stressful these situations can be. But for too many, the stress and heartache does not end when help arrives or a treatment is delivered.
Nearly one in four Kansans seeking medical treatment — either through planned surgery or emergency medical care — are hit with a surprise bill, because the care they received was from a provider outside of their network.
In Kansas, this can happen after a trip to the emergency room for a child’s broken arm, chest pain or a motor vehicle accident, for which the patient receives emergency care from a professional or hospital outside of their insurance network. Unfortunately, surprise billing can also occur in non-emergency situations where a surgery is planned out well in advance, but you later find out one of the doctors was not in your health plan’s network.
These unplanned expenses can leave Kansans on the hook for thousands, if not tens of thousands in additional medical bills, often depleting family savings or forcing individuals into long-term debt.
The nightmare of unplanned medical billing has gone on for far too long.
Working alongside the White House and my fellow members of the House “Doctors Caucus,” I am proud of the solutions we have developed that would put an end to the unfair practice of surprise billing. I am encouraged by the widespread agreement in Congress to address this issue and am optimistic we can agree to commonsense policies that President Trump is eager to sign into law.
We should all be able to agree on sensible reforms that address surprise billing. Specifically, patients should always be protected from surprise medical bills when receiving emergency or non-emergency care, and claims should be settled between the health care provider and the insurer, without roping in the patient.
In the 21st century, we should expect that consumers have accurate information about providers in their network with real and honest cost estimates before they make health care decisions. When referring a patient to another specialist, I have always told my patients to check their health plan’s provider directory, but also encouraged them to double check with the physician’s office directly, in case the information is not up to date. This process is confusing, time consuming, and unnecessary, and it is my priority to fix it.
These solutions have been more than a year in the making and I am optimistic we are close to accomplishing our shared goal of lowering the cost of health care and ending surprise medical billing once and for all.