Open Letter to the Tennessee Congressional Delegation on Surprise Medical Billing by Several Tennessee Physicians

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Dear Members of the Tennessee Congressional Delegation,

Tennessee’s medical community is increasingly concerned with the practice of surprise medical billing that impacts so many of our patients. It is time for Congress to enact federal legislation that will protect patients from the unwanted “surprise” that comes when they are stuck with a surprise bill for medical care they thought would be covered by their insurance company.

Unfortunately, some of the bills in Congress that attempt to solve this problem use a risky approach called benchmarking, which would enact a form of government rate-setting. Allowing the federal government to set arbitrary and likely lower-than-market rates paid to physicians would inevitably result in devastating financial losses for our vital emergency rooms and hospitals. This would be particularly devastating for rural health care and lead to higher rates of provider consolidation, threatening patient access and convenience, diminishing the quality of care, and increasing costs.

Rather than taking us down this road to substandard health care as Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is proposing, Congress should look to implement the Independent Dispute Resolution (IDR) outlined in other legislative solutions put forward in both the House by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN1) and also supported by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN2). In cases where disputed payments exceed $500, IDR would allow both insurers and providers to leverage a fair, open, and transparent negotiation process. Both parties would submit their best offers and final payment would be determined by an independent arbitrator.

IDR will both protect patients from surprise billing while ensuring the vital health care facilities serving our communities—particularly our rural, hard-to-reach ones—remain financially stable.
For patients in Tennessee and across the country, the IDR process will help preserve the quality of care, access, and convenience while benchmarking will only undermine all three. Any legislative solution Congress passes on this issue must include IDR in order to protect patients and enable physicians to continue providing the highest quality of care possible. We applaud Rep. Roe and Sen. Blackburn for their stance and encourage Sen. Alexander to also support an independent, fair, and equitable solution to ending surprise medical bills.

Sincerely,

Chad Greene, MD Gil Thayer, MD David May, MD
Murfreesboro Anesthesia Hardin Medical Ctr. Sycamore Anesthesia
1800 Medical Ctr. Pkwy 935 Wayne Rd. 922 G Street
Murfreesboro, TN Savannah, TN Elizabethton, TN

James E. Thomas, MD Chris Young, MD Joseph M. Nounou, MD
Physicians Radiological Group Erlanger Medical Bristol Anesthesia
5959 Park Ave 975 E. 3rd St. 350 Blountville Hwy
Memphis, TN Chattanooga, TN Bristol, TN

Stefan J. Grenvik, MD Gary Kimzey, MD Joey Hensley, MD
Bristol Anesthesia Services Medical Anesthesia Family Practice
350 Blountville Hwy 1265 Union Ave. 507 W. Main
Bristol, TN Memphis, TN Hohenwald, TN

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