Senators Promote Bipartisan, Bicameral Agreement to Shield Patients from Damaging Billing Practice

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today said she is part of a bipartisan push to protect patients from surprise medical bills by including a legislative fix in a year-end spending bill.

Hyde-Smith, Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (La.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and others signed a letter asking Senate leadership to include a bicameral agreement on ending surprise medical billing practices in must-pass, year-end legislation.  Hyde-Smith in 2019 cosponsored Cassidy’s STOP Surprise Medical Bill Act (S.1531).

“A short legislative calendar shouldn’t keep us from shielding families from surprise medical bills, those truly outrageous medical charges that seemingly come out of nowhere,” Hyde-Smith said.  “Committees of jurisdiction in the Senate and House have an agreement on how to best protect patients and we should not delay in enacting this plan.”

A Senate and House agreement would hold patients harmless from surprise medical bills and provide a fair arbitration process to resolve disputes between health care providers and insurers. It would not undermine any existing state laws or include “rate setting” or a threshold to access arbitration to resolve billing disputes.

In their letter, the Senators wrote, “The practice of surprise medical billing needs to end.  This practice has been especially damaging during COVID-19 when patients receive large unexpected bills weeks after they go to the emergency room…  There will never be a broader bipartisan, bicameral solution to ending surprise medical billing, and we should deal with it now. Patients cannot wait any longer.”

The letter also notes that inclusion of this agreement to end surprise medical billing would also allow approximately $18 billion in savings to fund Community Health Centers and other crucial primary care programs for four years.

A copy of the letter is available here.