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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congress says it's trying again to pass legislation protecting patients from surprise medical bills, but it doesn't appear to have resolved any of the fights that derailed the effort late last year.

The big picture: Surprise billing is the unique issue that splits lawmakers not by party, but by which industry group — insurers or providers — they sympathize with more. And both industries are fighting hard for their favored solution.

Driving the news: Two House committees released new surprise billing proposals on Friday, confirming that while everyone wants to prohibit surprise bills, there's still no agreement on how to resolve payment disputes between insurers and providers.

  • The Ways and Means Committee proposal includes a mediation process for when insurers and out-of-network providers can't agree on a payment rate, while the Energy and Commerce Committee's proposal from last year would decide payment rates using a blend of both arbitration and a benchmark.
  • The Education and Labor Committee's proposal — also released Friday — is similar to the Energy and Commerce plan.

What they're saying: The industry responded predictably to Friday's news.

  • The Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing, a group representing employers, insurers and unions, blasted the two new proposals, while the Federation of American Hospitals released a statement in support of the Ways and Means plan.
  • The groups' positions on the Energy and Commerce plan are reversed.

The bottom line: Lawmakers are faced with the same hard decisions that they punted in December, and industry groups aren't giving any indication that they'll make things any easier for members.

Go deeper: Surprise medical bills inflate everyone's health insurance premiums

Editor’s note: This piece was corrected to give more details and more accurately characterize the Energy and Commerce Committee's proposal.

Go deeper

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will not seek re-election in 2022

Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker (R) speaking during a press conference in November 2021. Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), a moderate who typically ranks as one of the nation's most popular governors, said Wednesday that he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito (R) will not seek third terms in 2022.

Why it matters: The decision leaves the gubernatorial race wide open and will likely affect multiple down-ballot races next year. Baker was expected to be the front-runner had he joined the race.

3 hours ago - Health

CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers

Travelers with their luggage arrive at a COVID-19 testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday night that it is working to impose stricter testing requirements for international travelers due to the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The big picture: The new rules would require all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative test taken a day before their flight to the U.S. Currently, the CDC says fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to show a test taken no more than three days before their departure, AP reports.

Republicans threaten to shut down government over vaccine mandates

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the Capitol in November 2020. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate are planning to force a government shutdown Friday to deny funding needed to enforce the Biden administration's vaccine mandates on the private sector, according to Politico.

Why it matters: Congress has until the end of the week to pass a stopgap measure to extend funding into 2022, though objection from a small group of Republicans could shut down the government.