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Stopping Surprise Medical Bills Goal of Bipartisan McCaskill Effort

Continuing her work to bring down medical costs for Missourians, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill released a draft bipartisan plan to help protect patients from surprise medical bills.

The draft bill comes from the bipartisan Senate healthcare price transparency working group, which McCaskill is a member of, and is intended to jumpstart discussions in Congress about how to best stop the use of balance billing—a practice where healthcare providers bill patients the difference between what insurance companies pay and what healthcare providers charge, which can be staggering amounts especially if the provider is outside of the insurance company’s network.

“When Missouri families are facing a medical emergency, the last thing they should be worrying about is if the emergency room is in network or if they’ll get stuck with a massive bill after the fact,” McCaskill said. “I’m committed to finding real solutions to help lower the costs of healthcare facing Missourians, and this bipartisan proposal is an important first step towards tackling a tough and costly issue.”

The bipartisan discussion draft of the Protecting Patients from Surprise Medical Bills Act would curb surprise medical bills by: ensuring patients are not forced to pay exorbitant prices for out-of-network emergency services; requiring providers inform patients of higher prices for out-of-network, non-emergency services before administering treatment; and prohibiting out-of-network providers from excessively billing patients in an in-network facility.

Surprise medical bills can be financially devastating to families following an emergency, leaving patients with burdensome debt. Recent examples of patients receiving surprise medical bills include a patient who received a bill of nearly $109,000 for care after a heart attack, and a patient who received a bill for $17,850 for a urine test.

McCaskill has made tackling rising healthcare costs in Missouri a top priority. The Senate recently passed bipartisan proposals by McCaskill to put an end to pharmacy gag clauses that can prohibit pharmacists from telling customers that they could pay less for their prescription if they pay out of pocket. Additionally, McCaskill led a bipartisan call for aggressive federal oversight of the air ambulance industry to bring down costs for patients, and introduced legislation that would bring more accountability to the industry. McCaskill also sought answers from Envision Healthcare and following reports of skyrocketing costs at emergency rooms run by its subsidiary EmCare Holdings, Inc. which manages more than ten hospitals in Missouri.

Senator Claire McCaskill

Senator Claire McCaskill

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