White House must go further to protect patients from surprise bills

In response to the release of the White House’s principles regarding surprise billing, Dr. Vidor Friedman, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians said:

“ACEP appreciates the White House weighing in on this important issue and welcomes congressional action to address surprise medical bills. Emergency physicians strongly support taking patients out of the middle of billing disputes between insurers and out-of-network medical providers. Patients cannot choose where and when they will need emergency care and should not be punished financially in an emergency situation.

“ACEP shares the Administration’s view that improving transparency is critical to stopping surprise bills— patients need to fully understand the limits of their insurance coverage. Still, the principles the White House laid out do not go far enough to protect patients.

“As noted in ACEP’s recommendations to Congress in January, patients should only be held responsible for any in-network cost-sharing amounts of emergency care, whether the care received is in- or out-of-network. However, such protection is currently applicable to only coinsurance and co-pays. To effectively address surprise billing, any legislation needs to extend this protection to the deductible portion of the patient’s bill.

“ACEP is concerned about the Administration’s call for a single hospital bill. Such a “bundled payment” approach may seem simple in theory for voluntary medical procedures. But if applied to the unpredictable nature of emergency care, this untested idea opens the door to massive and costly disruption of the health care system that would shift greater costs to patients while failing to address the actual root cause of surprise bills – inadequate networks provided by insurers.

“ACEP looks forward to continuing to work with the Administration and Congress to pass legislation that truly protects patients from the “surprise bills” that occur when their insurance coverage fails them.”

ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine.