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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

Police officers' immunity from lawsuits is getting a fresh look

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Nearly a year after the death of George Floyd, advocates of changes in police practices are launching new moves to limit or eliminate legal liability protections for officers accused of excessive force.

Why it matters: Revising or eliminating qualified immunity — the shield police officers have now — could force officers accused of excessive force to personally face civil penalties in addition to their departments. But such a change could intensify a nationwide police officer shortage, critics say. 

The U.S. coronavirus vaccines aren't all the same

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The U.S. now has three COVID-19 vaccines, and public health officials are quick — and careful — to say there’s no bad option. But their effectiveness, manufacturing and distribution vary.

Why it matters: Any of the authorized vaccines are much better than no vaccine, especially for people at high risk of severe coronavirus infections. But their differences may fuel perceptions of inequity, and raise legitimate questions about the best way to use each one.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

The future of workplace benefits

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The pandemic exposed how workplaces across America are inhospitable to parents. But it could also spur companies to make changes.

The big picture: Well over a million parents have left their jobs due to child care responsibilities during the pandemic. Now, companies — large and small — are attempting to reimagine workplace benefits and add flexibility to help those parents come back.