Opinion

Sen. Burr can help stop surprise medical billing

Legislation pending in the U.S. Senate would provide a national solution for surprise medical billing.
Legislation pending in the U.S. Senate would provide a national solution for surprise medical billing. Fresno Bee

Like many North Carolina consumers, our state’s health care community is increasingly concerned about the growing practice of “surprise medical billing” and its harm to the patients and communities we serve.

Fortunately, legislation pending in the U.S. Senate would provide a national solution for this problem, which affects far too many patients in North Carolina and across the country. But it needs the support of North Carolina’s senior senator, Richard Burr, who is on the committee considering the bill.

As President & CEO of the Association for Home & Hospice Care of North Carolina, I see firsthand how this issue affects patients struggling to get the care they need. Our association represents providers of home health, hospice, palliative care, personal care, private duty nursing, and companion/sitter services across the state.

On behalf of the patients we serve and the families we help through difficult times, I call on Sen. Burr to support and help pass the STOP Surprise Medical Bills Act. The sooner Congress passes this much-needed legislation, the better off patients and their families will be in North Carolina and throughout the nation.

Surprise medical billing is just what it sounds like. Patients receive treatment at a health care facility — then, a few weeks later, they receive an unwelcome surprise: an astronomical bill for care that was not covered by their insurance.

This unfairly puts vulnerable patients and their families in the middle of a dispute between insurers and medical providers. Several states have taken steps to protect patients against the effects of surprise medical billing, but the piecemeal approach is not enough.

To resolve this national issue, we need a federal solution — and that is where Sen. Burr and his congressional colleagues come in. Recently introduced by Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, the STOP Surprise Medical Bills Act has the support of a broad bipartisan group of senators.

If passed, the measure would help put in place stronger patient protections, increase transparency from health care insurers, and establish a fair approach for providers and insurers to resolve their billing disputes without needlessly burdening patients. The genius of the bill is the mediated process it would establish, known as an Independent Dispute Resolution, which a new national poll shows 85% of American voters support.

The IDR approach fosters a fair, balanced dynamic between health insurance companies and out-of-network health care providers. It encourages both sides to come to the negotiating table while encouraging in-network contracting that benefits patients.

The STOP Surprise Bills Medical Act would provide strong patient protections that will help ensure patients are not forced to participate in complex, complicated billing discussions or receive unexpected bills for out-of-network care. It also would help simplify and clarify insurance plans’ out-of-network coverage and limitations to avoid any confusion.

The Association for Home & Hospice Care of North Carolina is heartened to see Congress taking steps to address this vital issue. We encourage Sen. Burr to join the effort to protect patients by supporting the STOP Surprise Medical Bills Act with IDR.

With this legislation, we can finally provide a modicum of relief to patients and families already struggling with health complications and financial concerns. Passing this legislation is the least Congress could do to help them.

Tim Rogers is , CEO of the Association for Home & Hospice Care of North Carolina.
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