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  • Washington Highlights

    Hospital Associations Propose Protecting Patients from Surprise Bills

    Len Marquez, Senior Director, Government Relations
    Allyson Perleoni, Director, Government Relations

    The AAMC, along with five other national hospital associations, sent a letter Feb. 20 to Congress outlining several key principles to address surprise medical bills, which often result from unexpected gaps in coverage or emergency room care.  

    Concerns related to surprise medical bills have risen to prominence as a component of congressional interest in the health care price transparency issue and as patients have shared stories of receiving care and then receiving unexpectedly high “surprise bills” for utilizing out-of-network providers when accessing this care. As the letter states, “Surprise bills can cause patients stress and financial burden at a time of particular vulnerability: when they are in need of medical care.” Congress has indicated a desire to address the issue through legislation, and has been actively seeking feedback from key stakeholders, including hospital groups.

    The letter, sent to congressional and committee leadership, outlines several principles supported by the groups, including:

    • Defining “surprise bills”;

    • Protecting the patient financially;

    • Ensuring access to emergency care;

    • Preserving the role of private negotiation between health plans and providers;

    • Educating patients about their coverage;

    • Ensuring patients have access to comprehensive provider networks and accurate network information; and

    • Supporting state laws that work.

    The hospital associations agreed that it is of the utmost importance to “work together to protect patients from surprise bills.”