Politicians: Don’t Use Crisis to Advance Your Special Interest

Politicians: Don’t Use Crisis to Advance Your Special Interest
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Congress is negotiating a deal on a Coronavirus stimulus package that still needs to pass both chambers of Congress. Politico reports, “As negotiations progress, the size and scope of the package appeared to steadily increase. The price tag of the legislation is now expected to exceed $1.3 trillion, according to National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow. The total size of the package, including loans from the federal government, would likely exceed 10 percent of GDP — roughly $2 trillion, he said. That would include a payroll tax holiday for small businesses.”

 Some are trying to drop a radical health care policy change into the package.

Reports indicate that some in Congress want to use this bill to shift the cost of Surprise Medical Billing (SMB) from insurers to doctors and hospitals. Modern Healthcare reported on March 10, 2020, “Senate health committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and House Energy & Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) are pushing for legislation banning surprise medical bills to be included in Congress’ third bill responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.”  This would be a change to policy that will slow the medical response to the coronavirus.

Several conservative groups have teamed up to fight price fixing during this time of crisis. The Daily Caller reported that an allaince of 24 groups, "including Americans for Tax Reform, the Club for Growth, and Heritage Action, are warning Congress ‘to reject any attempt to include any language that would seek’ government-mandated rate-setting ‘to determine out-of-network rates for physicians.’”

The intent of the message is clear: legislators must push back – and defeat – any myopic, political proposals that will hurt the front-line of our health care system. It’s immoral to leverage the crisis to advance parochial, political interests over the public interest. And, we certainly should not heap more burdens on America’s doctors and hospitals right at a time when we need them most.

Unnecessary government regulations—like price setting—will severely disrupt the medical response to the coronavirus. The legislative language being considered will reward insurance companies for creating confusing networks where they make more money when a patient has to get care out of their network. Now is not the time for network muddling and special interest inserts into a package that must prioritize the nation’s public health.

We are in a crisis and many Americans are afraid – schools are closed, churches are streaming their services, most of us are telecommuting. Life has changed and so should our politics. No politician should use coronavirus as cover to promote a narrow, special interest.

As the coalition letter reads:

Members of Congress must “reject any attempt to include any language that would seek to address surprise medical billing by creating a government-mandated benchmark (i.e. rate-setting) to determine out-of-network rates for physicians. Government price controls for medical bills would be particularly devastating at a time of great stress for our nation’s patients and healthcare providers.

Doctors and hospitals are on the front line of treating and fighting this disease. Mandating in-network rates would result in direct government price controls that would artificially suppress rates for providers offering out-of-network care, resulting in enormous financial losses that would be shifted to local hospitals and emergency rooms.”

Our doctors and hospitals cannot afford the same-old politics – the pre-coronavirus politics. Just as there was a 9/12 national attitude after September 11th … we need a 9/12 mindset now.

What’s more, this crisis is teaching us that Medicare-for-All type proposals are yesterday’s news. Solving surprise medical billing with a Medicare-for-All scheme that is jammed into the stimulus package is dirty politics. Don’t do it.

Jerry Rogers is the vice president at the Institute for Liberty and the host of “The Jerry Rogers Show” on WBAL NewsRadio.


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