Feb 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans are divided on drug costs and surprise medical bills

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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday that Senate Republicans are divided on bipartisan bills to address both drug costs and surprise bills, The Hill reports.

The big picture: The White House vocally supports the bipartisan drug pricing bill by Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden.

  • The White House waded into the slog over how to address surprise medical bills, appearing to side with the approach taken by multiple leading committees and favored by insurers, employers and unions.

Meanwhile, the House Education and Labor Committee passed its surprise billing legislation yesterday — over the objections of lawmakers concerned about its impact on doctors, as The Hill's Peter Sullivan tweeted.

  • The Congressional Budget Office found that both leading approaches to out-of-network payment disputes would save billions of dollars over the next decade, although the insurer-favored (and apparently White House-favored) one would reportedly save more than the one generally supported by providers.

Go deeper: Congress remains gridlocked on surprise medical bills

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White House seems to back insurers in fight over surprise bills

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

In the debate over surprise medical bills, the White House said today it's "concerned that a push to overuse arbitration will raise healthcare costs" — indicating that it's not on board with the approach doctors and hospitals prefer.

The big picture: Congress is gridlocked between two approaches, pitting insurers against providers. White House spokesman Judd Deere also said the administration believes surprise bills from air ambulances should be addressed in the same legislation.

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

Congress remains gridlocked on surprise medical bills

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.

Go deeperArrowFeb 10, 2020 - Health

How doctors have shaped the fight around surprise medical bills

Doctors' extensive lobbying on surprise medical bills is partly to blame for Congress' inaction on the issue, reports Kaiser Health News.

Why it matters: "As Congress begins its 2020 legislative session, there is evidence the doctors' message has been received: The bills with the most momentum are making more and more concessions to physicians."

Go deeperArrowFeb 13, 2020 - Health