Despite Free Market Opposition, Lamar Alexander Presses on With Surprise Medical Billing Legislation


U.S. Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee says he’ll do everything he can to keep surprise medical billing at the top of Congress’ to-do list in 2020, despite opposition from, among others, the National Taxpayers Union.

“Protecting patients from surprise billing is something almost everyone wants fixed. One out of five patients who goes to an emergency room eventually receives an unexpected bill for as much as $300 or $3,000 or $30,000 because the doctor who treated them was not part of the same insurance network as the hospital,” Alexander said in a press release.

“The Senate Health Committee has approved a solution by a vote of 20-3. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has approved a solution unanimously. We’ve reached an agreement with the House Energy and Commerce Committee that the President strongly supports. The only people who don’t want this fixed are the people who benefit from these excessive fees, including the private equity groups which control three of the largest companies that handle billing and staffing for emergency rooms.”

But members of the National Taxpayers Union, as reported, say Alexander’s legislation is bad for America.

“Unfortunately, the legislation continues to rely on a benchmark payment for out-of-network providers, an unacceptable form of rate-setting that will only limit access to care and lead to a system of government-picked winners and losers,” members of the NTU said in a press release.

“Though more details of the legislative negotiations are forthcoming, press reports indicate the legislation will add an arbitration component to the benchmark system that already passed out of each committee earlier this year. The National Taxpayers Union believes it is critically important to protect patients from surprise bills, but believes there are alternative fixes that address this problem while not relying on government-heavy schemes to solve payment disputes.”

NTU Executive Vice President Brandon Arnold said taxpayers must remain wary, as government rate-setting means federal bureaucrats write the rules.

As The Tennessee Star reported last month, members of the NTU and 14 other taxpayer, consumer, and free-market advocates submitted a letter to Congressional leaders to express concerns about legislation.

As The Tennessee Star reported in July, surprise medical billing happens when a patient receives out-of-network care without his or her knowledge – either in an emergency or during a visit to an in-network facility. Weeks later, insurance companies send bills demanding patients pay money for services they assumed insurance would cover.

Members of Americans for Prosperity, the Center for a Free Economy, FreedomWorks, Institute for Liberty, and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance among others, signed the letter.

The letter asks Congressional leaders to avoid including surprise billing legislation in a larger year-end legislative package.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]




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