May 23, 2019

There's no clear way to fix surprise medical bills

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Data: Brookings; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Surprise medical bills may be Washington's favorite issue right now, but everyone has a different idea about how to address it.

Where it stands: A House committee, a group of senators and the White House are all on different pages.

  • Providers prefer using arbitration to settle payment disputes, but insurers want the government to create a federal payment standard.
  • Lawmakers, for now, are divided.
  • "This is now a fight between insurers, hospitals, and doctors. Of course, if this industry dispute can’t be mediated, then patients will be left out in the cold," the Kaiser Family Foundation's Larry Levitt said. 

Solving surprise billing isn't just about protecting the patients who receive those bills. It's also about addressing market distortions that drive up premiums.

  • Threatening to leave an insurer's network gives providers more leverage to negotiate higher rates, experts say, driving up costs across the board.
  • "The problem is that we've allowed these specialties to engage in behavior that has so distorted the market that correcting it is rather salient for those folks," the American Enterprise Institute's Ben Ippolito said.

Go deeper: Capitol Hill sees bipartisan momentum on surprise medical billing

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Brazil Ministry of Health reported Sunday 15,813 new coronavirus cases and 653 more deaths within 24 hours. 362,211 have tested positive for the virus, which has killed 22,666 in the country.

By the numbers: Over 5.4 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.1 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 13.7 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,800 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of midnight ET: 5,401,701 — Total deaths: 345,060 — Total recoveries — 2,149,407Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of midnight ET: 1,643,238 — Total deaths: 97,720 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,195Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 27 mins ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

President Trump doubled down on his push to reopen schools, tweeting late Sunday: "Schools in our country should be opened ASAP."

Zoom in: Trump pushed back on NIAD Director Anthony Fauci cautioning against the move earlier this month, calling his concerns "not an acceptable answer."