ACR applauds equitable surprise medical billing legislation

The American College of Radiology announced Tuesday that it supports recent legislation designed to tackle surprise medical billing.

The House Ways & Means Committee unveiled its proposal Friday, Feb. 7, which includes a mediation process that does not exclude providers based on an established qualifying threshold, the college said in its statement.

“The ACR appreciates the Ways and Means Committee’s thoughtful approach to resolve the issue of ‘surprise’ medical billing, as reflected in the ‘Consumer Protections Against Surprise Medical Bills Act,’” the Feb. 11 announcement read.  

A previous version of the bill was opposed by the ACR, arguing insurers would yield too much power over radiologists and other parties. Specifically, it would have let insurers move costs over to patients via higher deductibles and other cost-sharing measures, according to Radiology Business. Hundreds of physicians expressed similar agitation with that proposal, as did the American Federation of Hospitals.

Supporters of a different version of the bill, approved by the House Education and Labor Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 11, argue that the Ways & Means approach would risk driving up healthcare costs by passing the buck to consumers via higher premiums. That was echoed by the White House on Tuesday. According to the Hill, the newly-approved legislation would set payment rates based on the median figure paid for a service in a geographic area, leaving an arbitration option for a select number of higher-cost bills.

In its most recent message, the ACR said it will continue working with the Ways and Means Committee, along with others, to fine-tune this surprise medical billing policy so mediators can consider “multiple data points, while still respecting the private market dynamics between insurance plans and providers, and most importantly, protecting patients.”