Newswise — Today, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), representing more than 54,000 members, expressed its strong opposition to the surprise medical bill provisions included in the Alexander-Pallone-Walden Lower Health Care Costs proposal.

“We recognize that surprise billing is an unanticipated burden for many patients and we are committed to banning these bills,” said ASA President Mary Dale Peterson, M.D., MSCHA, FACHE, FASA. “While we address this critical issue, it must be done in a way that is fair and responsible.  Physicians should not be penalized for inadequate insurance networks. Currently, more than 90% of physician anesthesiologists’ claims are ‘in network’ with their patients’ insurance plans.  This latest proposal would harm physician practices who are making every effort, sometimes at great sacrifice, to do right by their patients in contracting with insurance companies to maintain ‘in-network’ status”. 

ASA has grave concerns about the impact of the Alexander-Pallone-Walden proposal on local physician practices. The committee summary of the proposal tracks closely with legislation previously authored by Senator Alexander and Congressmen Pallone and Walden, which were also opposed by ASA.  According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), these proposals would slash physician payments by 15 to 20%. Additionally, CBO notes that the “majority of health care is delivered inside patients’ networks,” and more than 80 percent of the estimated budgetary effects of proposals would arise from changes to in-network payment rates.”  ASA believes this approach of weakening physician practices across the country with massive payment cuts, while also penalizing physicians who are actually ‘in-network’ is the wrong approach to protect patients from surprise medical bills. 

“We believe that the legislation advanced by the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees, while improved with the inclusion of an independent dispute resolution (IDR) process, should be further refined to strengthen this process and fix the payment benchmark so access to care is ensured, especially in rural and underserved communities” said Dr. Peterson. “We urge Congress to look to data-supported state models to solve this problem.”

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