Fix surprise billing,

ensure emergency care

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

Virginia patients need relief from surprise medical billing — no one should have to worry about getting hit with high, unexpected bills for the cost of care they believed would be covered by insurance. As an emergency physician who practices in Richmond every day, I want to assure you that doctors do want to end surprise bills.

The insurance industry’s solution that they are pushing for in Congress, known as benchmarking, would set a rate based only on the insurers’ internally set in-network averages. That isn’t fair. It would be the same as doctors having a bill that said the insurers had to pay us whatever we charged. No solution should be that one-sided.

As an emergency physician, I am bound by a moral and legal responsibility to treat any patient who comes through my doors. I can’t — and don’t want to — turn anyone away. All we want is the chance to work the problem out with the insurer and no longer bill our patients to make up for the insurers’ unreasonably low out-of-network payments.

Fortunately, the physicians and hospitals have proposed another solution, called Independent Dispute Resolution (IDR), a process through which doctors and insurers would be able to negotiate out-of-network payments. Patients would not receive surprise bills. The IDR proposal would have a third party determine a reasonable payment, which could help keep insurance networks intact as well as help keep emergency departments fully staffed and able to care for patients and communities.

Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine along with Reps. Bobby Scott, Abigail Spanberger and Donald McEachin — plus the rest of Virginia’s elected officials in Congress — should help pass strong, IDR-based legislative solution that ends surprise billing while maintaining high-quality emergency care throughout Virginia.

Dr. Scott Hickey,

President, Virginia College of Emergency Physicians.Maidens.

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