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Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday released draft legislation to protect patients from surprise hospital bills.

The bottom line: For emergency services, patients would only be responsible for what they would pay for in-network care.

  • Patients receiving scheduled care would have to acknowledge that a provider is out-of-network. They couldn't receive balance bills from providers they "cannot reasonably choose."

Between the lines: The biggest obstacle to addressing the surprise billing problem is resolving payment issues between insurers and providers if providers can no longer balance bill patients.

  • This legislation uses a rate-setting mechanism, and sets a "minimum payment standard" at the median in-network rate for the service in the geographic area in which that service was delivered.

What they're saying: This is not providers' preferred approach, to say the least.

  • "We strongly oppose approaches that would impose arbitrary rates on providers. Insurers should maintain comprehensive networks and this plan takes us in the opposite direction by removing incentives to contract with providers," the American Hospital Association said in a statement.

Go deeper: An analysis of the measure — including its payment resolution mechanism — was published in Health Affairs.

Go deeper

Scoop: Biden weighs retired general Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star general Lloyd Austin as his nominee for Defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 31 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.
1 hour ago - Health

WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release"

A medical syringe and vial with fake coronavirus vaccine in front of the World Health Organization (WHO) logo. Photo Illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Top scientists at the World Health Organization on Friday called for more detailed information on a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

Why it matters: Oxford and AstraZeneca have said the vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses. AstraZeneca has since acknowledged that the smaller dose received by some participants was the result of an error by a contractor, per the New York Times.