Congressional Recess is Crunch Time for Surprise Medical Billing

July 29, 2019

Congress did not vote on proposed legislation to address the issue of surprise medical bills before adjourning for August recess, but there was notable movement on bills in both chambers during the past month, and the next six weeks is a critical time for physicians to engage federal lawmakers on the issue.

The U.S. House of Representatives adjourned for August recess last week and the Senate is expected to adjourn this week. Congressmen will return to their home districts to engage constituents on key issues, and they need to hear from Tennessee doctors on the different balance billing proposals making their way through the legislative process.

  • H.R. 3502, the Protecting People from Surprise Medical Bills Act, co-sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe, MD of Tennessee, is modeled after a successful law in New York and offers the most promising framework for a positive solution. The bill was referred on June 26 to several House committees.  

  • H.R. 3630, the No Surprises Act is modeled after a failing California law and would harm physicians without addressing the root cause of balance billing. Sponsors recently added a provision for an appeals process, but TMA has concerns about other provisions that would be unfavorable to physicians. It passed out of subcommittee on July 11 and is under consideration by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. 

  • S. 1895, the Lower Health Care Costs Act is co-sponsored by Tennessee Senator Lamar AlexanderTMA leaders visited with Sen. Alexander last month to express concerns over aspects of the bill that would cause more physicians to be cut from health plan networks, create access issues, and ultimately increase costs for patients. A similar model law is failing in California. The bill passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and is on the Senate legislative calendar.

TMA has been and continues working closely with the American Medical Association, Physicians Advocacy Institute and national medical specialty societies to advocate on your behalf, but lawmakers want and need to hear from their physician constituents. Tennessee doctors have about six weeks to engage federal lawmakers on their home turf before they return to D.C. Here’s what you can do:

  • Contact your Congressmen to ask for a meeting. Use the AMA congressional directory to be connected with your legislators’ district office and try to schedule time in person.

  • Attend town halls, feedback sessions, and other events that your elected officials may organize as part of this district work period to hear their constituents’ concerns. Visit Town Hall Project to find when your elected officials will hold a town hall or constituent event near you.

  • Even if you can’t get a scheduled meeting or attend an event, send an email to express your opinions about how to best solve balance billing and important ways to improve draft bills.

  • Tell us about your activities. We want to know what members are doing as part of TMA’s overall advocacy efforts on this issue – and what kind of response you get from legislators.

Congress will resume work on this issue as soon as lawmakers return from the August recess, so please help us make sure physicians have a strong voice in advocating for the best possible outcome!