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Sen. Rand Paul. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Some conservative lawmakers and advocacy groups are lining up against Congress' leading solution to surprise medical bills, saying it's too much government interference.

What they're saying: "If government rate setting is viewed as a 'patient protection' in these circumstances, it will lead to efforts to 'protect' patients through government rate setting in others," the Heritage Foundation's Doug Badger wrote.

The big picture: Surprise medical bills often occur when a patient inadvertently sees a doctor who's not in their insurance network, and that doctor bills the patient for the charges that their insurer won't pay.

  • The leading proposals in the House and Senate ban doctors from charging patients more than an in-network doctor would, and require insurers to pay out-of-network providers the median in-network rate for the service in that geographic area.
  • The Senate health committee passed the bill yesterday.

How it's playing: The conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks announced a $50,000 ad campaign this week against what it referred to as the "hidden Republican efforts to bring us ever closer to socialist-style ‘Medicare for All’ proposals."

  • Sen. Rand Paul even invoked Venezuela.
  • "If you fix the price that ER doctors work at, you will get a shortage... This is what happened to Chavez, it’s what happened to Maduro. I don’t think we’re becoming Venezuela soon, but this is part of what they do down there," he said yesterday.
  • And conservative lawyer Paul Clement recently wrote that the approach could be unconstitutional.

Hospitals are catching on to this argument too. "This bill solves the immediate problem for patients, but the unintended consequences of rate setting will lead to more narrow networks and a precedent of government interference in free market negotiations," Chip Kahn, president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, wrote in a statement.

On the other hand, the Manhattan Institute — another conservative think tank — spearheaded a letter signed by more than 2 dozen conservative health wonks that said providers' favorite approach could establish "an inflationary dynamic that accommodates and encourages the rapid growth of costs."

Go deeper

51 mins ago - Science

COVID time warp

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic seems like a lifetime ago to some, and just yesterday to others. Scientists are beginning to unpack the way people processed the passage of time amidst the stress, uncertainty and isolation of the 1 year, 8 months and 21 days since WHO declared a pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic's global effects on how people experience time could provide new insights into the brain's ability to perceive and predict time — a fundamental feature of life.

Mitt Romney calls Ray Dalio's China investments a "sad moral lapse"

Sen. Mitt Romney walks to a Senate Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol on Oct. 7. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday criticized billionaire Ray Dalio's investments in China, writing in a tweet that "his feigned ignorance of China's horrific abuses and rationalization of complicit investments there is a sad moral lapse."

Driving the news: Romney's comments come after Dalio's firm, Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, raised $1.3 billion in November for a new private fund in China, Bloomberg reports.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California — America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron — CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers.
  2. Politics: Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come — Meta removes accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China.
  3. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  4. World: Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people — Omicron variant detected in more countriesWHO advises people 60 or older to postpone travel due to Omicron
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.