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Union Leader: Hassan's surprise medical bills reform moving ahead

WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, on which Senator Maggie Hassan serves, yesterday passed bipartisan legislation to end surprise medical bills.

Senator Hassan has been a leader in efforts to address surprise medical bills and worked for months with Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and members from both parties to craft legislation to end this practice. In May, Senators Hassan and Cassidy joined the President for an event at the White House on the need to end surprise medical billing. The Senator also brought Donna Beckman of Seabrook, who faced a surprise medical bill, as her State of the Union guest to raise awareness for the issue. 

Click here for the full Union Leader story or see excerpts below:


A U.S. Senate committee Wednesday gave the first legislative victory to a policy campaign Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, has been waging for months.


The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee endorsed a health care costs bill that included provisions Hassan championed to end surprise medical bills.


She's been working with Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-LA, and members of both parties to prevent consumers from being stuck with high medical charges because they were unaware that they had gotten services from a provider, not in an insurance network.


President Trump has endorsed this cause and earlier this week he signed an executive order aimed at giving consumers more transparency about the costs that health care providers are charging for medical procedures.


"My top priority throughout this is to get the patients out of the middle of these billing disputes," Hassan said during a telephone interview.


"There are still going to have to be a few adjustments we need to make before this leaves the Senate but we are hoping very much that it will reach the full Senate by the end of July."


The bill states in the case of a surprise medical bill, providers would be paid a standard benchmark rate based on the median contracted cost for the service in that geographic area.


The nation's hospital lobby and some providers said without further change, the bill is unfair to them.


They have been seeking a provision that would allow providers to get an independent arbitration to explore whether the insurer should have to reimburse the provider for the higher cost.


Hassan said her original bill permitted such a process and she was hopeful arbitration in some form could emerge in the final package.


"I continue to think that is an important mechanism. What we have from the chair and the ranking member of the committee is a commitment to make sure to level the playing field between the providers and insurance companies," Hassan said.


Hassan has spoken to many residents with these issues, most recently Sarah Stewart of Dover, who had a surgery in network but got a $700 bill because the anesthesiologist was not in network.


[…] According to Kaiser Health, 16% of inpatient stays and 18% of emergency visits left a patient with at least one out-of-network charge.


The research also found that when a patient is admitted to the hospital from the emergency room, there's a higher likelihood of an out-of-network charge.