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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

43 mins ago - Technology
Column / Tech Agenda

The new digital extortion

Shoshana Gordon/Axios

If you run a hospital, a bank, a utility or a city, chances are you'll be hit with a ransomware attack. Given the choice between losing your precious data or paying up, chances are you'll pay.

Why it matters: Paying the hackers is the clear short-term answer for most organizations hit with these devastating attacks, but it's a long-term societal disaster, encouraging hackers to continue their lucrative extortion schemes.

1 hour ago - Health

CDC mask guidance sparks confusion, questions

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The CDC's surprise guidance last week freeing the fully vaccinated to go maskless sowed plenty of concerns across the country— even earning the "Saturday Night Live" treatment for all the questions it spurred.

Why it matters: With plenty of Americans still unvaccinated — and without any good way to confirm who has been vaccinated — some experts worry this could put many at increased risk.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

In photos: Israel-Hamas aerial bombardments enter second week

A ball of fire and a plume of smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli forces shell the Palestinian enclave, early on May 17. Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images

Israel and Hamas continued aerial bombardments into Monday morning, as fighting entered a second week.

Why it matters: The worst violence in the region since 2014 has resulted in the deaths of 197 people in Gaza, ruled by Hamas, and 10 in Israel. 58 Palestinian children and two Israeli children are among those killed since the aerial exchanges began on May 10, Reuters notes.