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Nunes Opening Statement at Subcommittee Hearing on Protecting Patients from Surprise Medical Bills

May 21, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Devin Nunes (R-CA) delivered the following opening statement at a Subcommittee Hearing on Protecting Patients from Surprise Medical Bills.

Before the start of today’s hearing, Rep. Nunes sent a letter to Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX).  CLICK HERE to read the full letter.

CLICK HERE to watch the hearing.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you all for joining us today.

“It is important to hear your different perspectives and I’m grateful to you for helping us get a better understanding of this issue.

“It is especially important to hear from the patient perspective, so I’m glad Representatives Porter and McMorris Rodgers are here today.

“But I want to be clear with the trade associations testifying as part of today’s second panel.  I am very disappointed that you all, as participants in of one of the most critical sectors in our economy, could not find a way to come together to protect patients from these huge ‘surprise’ bills.  Instead, we are here exploring a potential government solution to the problem.

“We’ve all heard the ridiculous stories—a $600 Band-Aid, a $60 ibuprofen, a $5,751 icepack.  

“The patient with the $5,751 icepack reportedly went to the emergency room after hitting her head and cutting her ear.  But she ended up leaving without care because the plastic surgeon who would see her was out-of-network for her insurance plan.  She wanted to avoid a big bill so she left with an icepack and a bandage.  Her insurance plan paid the hospital $862, what it deemed a ‘reasonable and appropriate’ fee for the services.  The hospital then sent the patient a bill for $4,989.

“My state, California, already has pretty robust protections against balance billing patients, going so far as to set a required reimbursement scheme—which I’m sure some of you like and some of you don’t like.  But I’m not interested in watching a food fight between you.

“I want to hear about commonsense, targeted solutions that could help solve different aspects of the surprise billing problem.

“I want to talk about policies that increase price transparency and help consumers make informed decisions about their health care.

“In non-emergency, scheduled situations, doctors and hospitals should be able to work with the insurance companies they contract with to give patients an estimate of their total cost of care and their cost-sharing obligations before they get services or treatment.  And patients should be notified about whether or not the health care providers who will be involved in their care are in their insurance network.

“I think that could go a long way in preventing these eye-popping bills.

“As you all know, another type of surprise bill occurs when people get care at an in-network hospital but were unknowingly seen by an out-of-network doctor.

“Perhaps hospitals, which are responsible for those practicing within their four walls, should be held responsible for dealing with issues between doctors and insurance companies in such circumstances.  This would ensure that when patients are seen by multiple providers, one of them won’t surprise the patient later with an out-of-network balance bill.

“To me, the organizations represented on our second panel have the power, and I would argue the responsibility, to solve this issue for patients.  I think there are a lot of different steps you should voluntary take to protect your patients and policyholders.

“Many states are working on solutions—either improving existing laws or creating new ones.  I know both sides of the aisle in Congress are interested in finding a solution that protects patients. I look forward to all of your constructive testimony, and I hope that you can help deliver solutions.”