ACR, numerous others urge Congress to keep surprise billing fix out of COVID relief package

The American College of Radiology and groups representing “hundreds of thousands” of physicians are urging Congress to keep any surprise medical billing remedy out of the next COVID-19 relief package.

ACR, the Society of Interventional Radiology, the American Society of Neuroradiology and numerous others made their case in a Wednesday letter to House and Senate leadership. The groups said they support such legislative changes to protect patients from financial harm, but believe they should wait until docs are on more solid footing.

“As you know, this public health crisis is stressing physician practices more than any time in our country’s history,” the more than 100 medical groups wrote July 29. “Unfortunately, despite the fragility of physician practices, some see an opportunity to include surprise medical billing provisions in the next COVID-19 relief package. America’s physicians strongly agree that it is critical to protect patients from surprise medical bills, and we firmly believe that a thoughtful, measured federal solution is possible to achieve. However, now is not the time to adopt divisive surprise billing legislation.”

Whenever Congress decides to tackle this divisive issue, the letter writers offered a list of essential elements. Those include ensuring that patients are only responsible for in-network cost-sharing, providing docs with direct payment or assignment of benefits from the insurer, setting a benchmark payment for out-of-network care based on the average in-network contract rate, and establishing a fair dispute-resolution process.

ACR et al. also want lawmakers to hold insurers accountable if their provider network proves inadequate for patients.

“The coronavirus has placed an extraordinary strain on our country’s physicians and hospitals, and it is, therefore, imperative that Congress refrain from actions that will further disrupt the healthcare system,” the writers concluded. “Like you, we strongly agree that patients must be protected from surprise medical bills, and we reaffirm our commitment to devise a balanced approach. However, the complexity and multifaceted nature of the issues pertaining to surprise medical bills warrants due consideration from Congress.”

You can read the rest of the letter here.