Big Insurance Pushes Bad Medicine

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Health care reform remains a top issue for the Trump Administration. Obviously, COVID-19 is the paramount concern, however, other health care questions top the administration’s list of must pass items, including a fix for surprise medical billing (SMB).

Just this week, White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany told the press room "We're making health care better and cheaper". Ms. McEnany included “stopping surprise medical billing” as a major part of the president’s comprehensive approach to health care reform. In fact, it was just this past May when President Trump called on Republicans and Democrats to pass legislation to end surprise medical bills. Indeed, the president has made it abundantly clear that his administration is “determined to end surprise medical billing for American patients."

The challenge, of course, is not to compound the problem of surprise billing with a wrong fix, like a rate-setting scheme favored by the insurance lobby. Big insurance too often pushes a business model that forces patients out-of-network for care that results in large, surprise medical bills. Lobbyists for big insurance are looking to force a price-control system as a remedy to the surprise bills patients receive due to narrow coverage limits imposed by the insurance companies themselves.

It is a proposal that protects special interests at the expense of patients. And it ignores the crisis of out-of-network pricing which is the real culprit behind surprise medical pricing. Rate-setting is a crony mechanism that will hurt patients and physicians while protecting the business decision by insurance companies to pass the surprise bills onto patients and hospitals.

In a recent Pew Research Center poll, 68% of voters said health care was a top issue for the 2020 election. Therefore, it should be no surprise that the special interests behind rate-setting were active this past primary season. In fact, price-control proponents, like Justice Democrats, made a failed attempt to take down House Ways & Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA). Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent in support of Neal’s challenger, Alex Morse. Indeed, Justice Democrats, the far-left group launched by allies of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), backed Morse to the tune of $450,000.

Surprise medical billing is a real problem for patients. It is a problem created and made worse by insurance companies. Rate-setting schemes—pushed by big insurance and far-left special interest groups—reward bad actors by imposing a one-size-fits-all, Medicare-for-All style plan that will damage our already strained health care system.

President Trump is right to make ending SMB a keystone to his comprehensive approach to health care reform. However, real reform must include competition and market principles – for instance, on surprise medical billing, an arbitration plan which negotiates a price point that is fair to both the patient and medical provider is far superior to Medicare-for-All style price controls.

America’s physicians have been on the frontlines fighting COVID-19. Now is not the time to cut their pay by imposing artificial price controls pushed by insurance companies and their leftist allies in the Congress. Shifting the burden of surprise medical billing onto physicians might be good for insurance companies but it is bad medicine for doctors and patients.

Jerry Rogers is the editor of RealClearHealth and the host of the ‘Jerry Rogers Show’ on WBAL NewsRadio.

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