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Expand chart
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

Updated 7 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Inauguration Day dashboard

U.S. Capitol and stage are lit at sunrise ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden. Photo: Patrick Semansky - Pool/Getty Images

President Biden has delivered his inaugural address at the Capitol, calling for an end to the politics as total war but warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country.

What's next: Biden, Harris and nearly all the living former presidents and their spouses lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery.

Inaugural address: Biden vows to be "a president for all Americans"

Moments after taking the oath of office, President Biden sought to soothe a nation riven by political divisions and a global pandemic, while warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country and defeat a "virus that silently stalks the the country."

Why it matters: From the same steps that a pro-Trump mob launched an assault on Congress two weeks earlier, the new president paid deference to the endurance of American political institutions.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated as president and vice president respectively in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Top Democrats and Republicans gathered for the peaceful transfer of power only two weeks after an unprecedented siege on the building by Trump supporters to disrupt certification of Biden's victory. Trump did not attend Wednesday's ceremony.