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Photo: Shane Novak/Getty Images

A coalition of employers and health insurers wants Congress to step in and set doctors' payment rates, in some cases, as a way to combat surprise medical bills.

What they're saying: In a letter to congressional leaders, the group — which includes America's Health Insurance Plans and the American Benefits Council — said Congress should set reimbursement rates for certain services either based on market rates or as a percentage of what Medicare pays.

  • They also suggested banning providers from sending surprise bills to patients in "cases of emergency, involuntary care, or instances where the patient had no choice in their provider."
  • The threat of high out-of-network rates can also raise in-network rates, causing higher premiums for everyone.

Between the lines: It's not every day that insurers endorse government price-setting, even in narrow circumstances.

  • "Large employers and insurance companies are not generally fans of price regulation, so opening the door to that is a big deal, even considering that it’s someone else’s prices they’re talking about controlling," said the Kaiser Family Foundation's Larry Levitt.

The other side: "Not only is it a dangerous precedent for the government to start setting rates in the private sector, but it could also create unintended consequences for patients by disrupting incentives for health plans to create comprehensive networks," the American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals said in response.

Go deeper: Why ending surprise medical bills is harder than it looks

Go deeper

17 mins ago - World

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai detained on fraud charge

An activist holds a placard highlighting China's Tiananmen Square massacre as pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrives at West Kowloon Magistrates' Court in Hong Kong in November. Photo: Isaac Wong/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai is being detained until an April court hearing after the pro-democracy supporter was charged Thursday with fraud, per his Apple Daily news outlet.

Why it matters: His arrest and denial of bail is another blow for the pro-democracy movement in the former British colony amid concerns about a fresh crackdown on activists.

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Inhofe loudly sets Trump straight on defense bill

Sen. Jim Inhofe speaks with reporters in the Capitol last month. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Senator Jim Inhofe told President Trump today he'll likely fail to get two big wishes in pending defense spending legislation, bellowing into his cellphone: "This is the only chance to get our bill passed," a source who overheard part of their conversation tells Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans are ready to test whether Trump's threats of vetoing the bill, which has passed every year for more than half a century, are empty.

Conspiracy theories blow back on Trump's White House

Sidney Powell. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

President Trump has rarely met a conspiracy theory he doesn't like, but he and other Republicans now worry the wild tales told by lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood may cost them in Georgia's Senate special elections.

Why it matters: The two are telling Georgians not to vote for Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler because of a bizarre, baseless and potentially self-defeating theory: It's not worth voting because the Chinese Communist Party has rigged the voting machines.