Senate Legislation Heeds CAHC Recommendations on Surprise Medical Bills

CAHC claims victory with bill's rejection of harmful binding arbitration policies

WASHINGTON, DC (June 19, 2019): The Council for Affordable Health Coverage (CAHC)  – a coalition of employers, insurers, life science companies, PBMs, brokers, agents, patient groups, and physician organizations – responded to today's bipartisan introduction of the Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019 by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA). 

The bill hews closely to draft legislation unveiled by the Senators last month, establishing a benchmark payment rate based on current median in-network rates to combat the injustice of surprise medical bills. The legislation rejects burdensome independent dispute resolution or "binding arbitration" policies - originally listed among a menu of other options in last month's draft bill - which would have raised overall healthcare costs according to a preliminary CAHC analysis of similar proposed legislation. 

"The Lower Health Care Costs Act could be a gamechanger for American patients and taxpayers. With this bill, Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray are taking action to confront uncompetitive hospital markets, improve prescription drug affordability, and lift the threat of surprise medical bills," said CAHC President Joel White. "We are grateful that the sponsors listened to the concerns of CAHC and others by adopting a commonsense approach to resolving surprise billing issues, rather than resorting to shadowy, unaccountable binding arbitration policies that would add a new layer of bureaucracy to patients' healthcare experience and threaten to raise overall health costs." 

CAHC previously called binding arbitration "the IPAB of hospital billing" and sent comments to the Senate HELP Committee earlier this year on the draft version of this legislation, praising its efforts to combat surprise billing while warning, "An independent dispute resolution structure ... should be rejected because it has the potential to be very expensive to administer, opaque, and prone to provider capture." 

See materials from CAHC's May 29th Congressional briefing on surprise billing featuring speakers from Brookings Institution, American Enterprise Institute, and RAND Corporation here