I Vote 4 Health Care: Surprise medical bills

It can be easy, and even reflexive, to become disconnected and cynical toward politics in a 24-hour news cycle. Nonetheless, it’s as important as ever to stay informed and to make intentional choices when you go to the polls. Whether you consider yourself a “single issue voter” or not, health care fits into most single issues that move the electorate. At the crux of workers’ rights, income inequality, reproductive health, gun safety, the impending climate crisis, supporting veterans, and several other issues is access to quality and affordable health care. This series, titled I Vote 4 Health Care, will explore what’s at stake when you cast your vote this year.

By Jackie Nappo

Surprise medical bills have gotten more media attention lately as Congress attempts to create a plan to protect patients from the devastating costs.

This issue is on the table for Congress this year, and while we hope for speedy action it is entirely possible that the issue will not be resolved during this session alone. We have the power to tell our legislators now that any solution to this problem needs to be consumer focused, and it needs to come soon.  

Not only that, but we have the power to remind them that we will remember their actions in the next few months when we visit the ballot box in November.

Put plainly, the obstacle for legislators trying to offer relief to victims of surprise billing is a mass lobbying effort by doctors and hospitals, who favor remedies that have physician salaries rather than consumer relief in mind.

Millions of dollars have been leveraged over the past year to Democrats and Republicans alike by lobbying groups aligned with physicians and hospitals, which is why voters must mobilize around the issue to let legislators know that they deserve to be listened to, as well.  

Right now, three congressional committees, as well as unions and consumer groups, are backing a proposal to set payment benchmarks at the median amount paid for the service in the geographic area.

Doctors, hospitals, and conservative groups favor arbitration, which would not provide as much consumer relief as the bench marking approach.

House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has said that she hopes to include surprise billing legislation this session, but lawmakers also hoped to have the problem solved last year.

Whether or not it passes, voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on the choices of their representatives in November. While every day people don’t have the means to throw thousands of dollars at legislators to get them to listen, we do have hiring and firing power, and we need to feel empowered to use it.