Last week, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Massachusetts Democrat Richard Neal proposed a new way for dealing with the problem of hospitals overcharging out-of-network patients. As part of his proposal, the Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury departments would form a committee to set prices on out-of-network care. In other words, his plan is a Trojan horse to sneak government-run healthcare past voters through the maze of bureaucracy.
It’s no secret that hospitals have been sending patients “surprise medical bills” for out-of-network care. And the name for this process comes from those surprising moments when you receive a $18,000 bill for a basic urine test that you thought insurance covered. In far too many cases, Americans have been receiving these exorbitant medical bills because the hospital they were treated at ended up being outside of their insurance network.
However, the solution to this problem is not for the federal government to implement government price-setting, and the American people seem to agree. A poll published earlier this year found that only 13 percent of voters support government-run healthcare.
Rep. Neal’s proposal bucks the voices of the American people and serves as a vehicle for resurrecting the Obamacare “death panels,” sanctioning government bureaucrats to decide who gets covered for life-saving treatments.
Given the unfavorable poll numbers surrounding this issue, Congressional Democrats are hesitant to be the face of a government price-fixing plan. So, now they have outsourced the work to unaccountable bureaucrats and insurance lobbyists who have no public constituency and face no consequences for their actions. Simply put, they are working in the shadows.
Sadly, we’ve seen this before.
During the Obama administration, lobbyists for the nation’s largest insurance companies dictated healthcare policy. Insurers got a great return on their $243 million investment in lobbying for Obamacare: what’s better for business than the government forcing people to purchase your product?
Those who championed the legislation said it was an existential threat to big insurance companies—but that demonstrably wasn’t the case. In fact, insurance companies supported it; and they repaid the favor to Elizabeth Fowler, Obamacare’s architect, and 30 other former Obama administration officials, with cushy lobbying gigs.
Obamacare triggered the ongoing problem of fewer options and rising healthcare costs. And this particularly hits home for many rural areas, where, in many cases, Americans only have one choice for their healthcare provider. And like Obamacare, Rep. Neal’s proposal would be another bailout for insurance companies at the expense of these rural patients and millions of other Americans.
Neal’s proposal, however, could take several years to implement and there’s no guarantee Republicans will be in power to prevent its application. If Republicans don’t stop this proposal now, there is a possibility that they could be handing over price-fixing authority to a Democratic president, who will most certainly use it as a vehicle to push forward their plan for socialized healthcare.
Rather than supporting a price-setting proposal, congressional Republicans, such as Senators Ben Sasse, Deb Fischer, and Thom Tillis, who represent many rural communities, should instead support Senator Bill Cassidy’s bill. The STOP Surprise Medical Bills Act, which would prevent excessive out-of-network costs (and those surprise medical bills).
In the end, Congressman Neal’s proposal is another Washington concoction that takes power away from patients and concentrates it in the hands of bureaucrats and lobbyists. Congressional Republicans must stand against this proposal and stand on the side of the American people.
State Representative Wayne Sasser is a pharmacist and serves as a Republican member of the North Carolina General Assembly.
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