Senate Committee Passes Surprise Medical Bills Legislation

June 28, 2019

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted 20 to 3 to pass an HR Policy-supported bipartisan bill to reduce out-of-pocket health care costs and increase health care price transparency, including using a federal benchmark to resolve surprise medical bills.

As previously reported, the benchmark would be based on the median in-network rate of a procedure in a geographic area.  This is the same approach included in the House Energy and Commerce Committee's bipartisan discussion draft released last month.

The HELP Committee bill also includes a number of provisions that will directly impact self-insured employer health care plans, including requiring those plans to submit their claims data to a national all-payer claims database and requiring employers to verify and update information on their provider networks every 90 days.

Looking ahead:  Although Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) would like the full Senate to vote on the bill before the end of July, it is not clear when, or if, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will bring the measure up for debate.  Meanwhile, a group of bipartisan senators led by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have introduced a bill that would use arbitration to resolve surprise bills, an approach preferred by the provider community.