Poll finds support for independent arbiters resolving ‘surprise’ medical bills

A new poll commissioned by a conservative group finds that a strong majority of voters support an independent arbiter resolving disputes over so-called “surprise” medical bills patients sometimes receive from hospitals and providers when their services aren’t covered by insurance.

The poll, which was sponsored by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, found that 75 percent of voters believe doctors, rather than health insurers, should determine the amount physicians charge for their work.

In cases of payment disputes, 74 percent support a third-party resolution that does not involve the federal government “benchmarking” prices for certain services.

Insurers and providers agree patients shouldn’t receive massive bills they’re not expecting, but the two sides are at war over who will take the hit if Congress legislates changes to their billing practices.

The debate is expected to spill over into the next Congress and could have electoral consequences for some candidates.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committees reached a bipartisan agreement this year to ban surprise medical bills through “benchmarking,” which sets costs at the average price for a service.

Conservative groups, including the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, have spent millions in opposition to the legislation, describing it as “rate setting” or federally-mandated “price controls” that give the government too much power over the health sector.

Critics of the legislation have warned that it would lead to a single-payer system such as Medicare for all.

Insurers largely support the “benchmarking” deal, which was struck by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and ranking member Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenOVERNIGHT ENERGY:  House passes sweeping clean energy bill | Pebble Mine CEO resigns over secretly recorded comments about government officials  | Corporations roll out climate goals amid growing pressure to deliver House passes sweeping clean energy bill Hillicon Valley: DOJ proposes tech liability shield reform to Congress | Treasury sanctions individuals, groups tied to Russian malign influence activities | House Republican introduces bill to set standards for self-driving cars MORE (R-Ore.), and Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderDemocratic Senate candidate in Tennessee discusses working-class background Pelosi urges early voting to counter GOP’s high court gambit: ‘There has to be a price to pay’ Graham: GOP has votes to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee before the election MORE (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate Democrats introduce legislation to probe politicization of pandemic response Trump health officials grilled over reports of politics in COVID-19 response CDC director pushes back on Caputo claim of ‘resistance unit’ at agency MORE (D-Wash.).

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealDemocrats blast Trump after report reveals he avoided income taxes for 10 years: ‘Disgusting’ Trump didn’t pay income tax for 10 of 15 years before 2016 election: NYT Centrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote MORE (D-Mass.) and ranking GOP member Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyBusinesses, states pass on Trump payroll tax deferral Trump order on drug prices faces long road to finish line On The Money: US deficit hits trillion amid pandemic | McConnell: Chance for relief deal ‘doesn’t look that good’ | House employees won’t have payroll taxes deferred MORE (Texas) have a competing plan that would end surprise billing by allowing an outside party to determine how much the insurer will pay the doctor if an agreement cannot be reached in private.

Neal recently won a close primary contest against a progressive candidate who ran ads against him for opposing the “benchmarking” bill.

The new poll, conducted by Jarrett Lewis and Robert Blizzard of Public Opinion Strategies, found that 58 percent are less likely to support the benchmarking plan when they’re told it will lead to a single payer system, including 83 percent of Republicans.

The conservative groups have been attacking the Walden-Pallone-Alexander-Murray bill as a move toward Medicare for all.

The poll found near-universal support for doctors, nurses and hospitals, while only about half of voters have a favorable view of health insurers.

Since the coronavirus pandemic, about 78 percent say their trust in doctors has increased, while only 32 percent say they have more trust in health insurers to look out for their best interests.

Eighty-five percent say they think health insurers put profits over their medical concerns.

“Rate setting was unpopular before COVID-19 but it has now become politically unviable,” said TPA President David Williams. “Doctors and nurses are risking their lives to care for sick patients and voters have made it clear that lawmakers should stand with healthcare heroes, not insurance companies. Legislation that resembles rate setting in any capacity will be met with strong opposition. By a clear margin, voters also make it clear they do not want a rate setting law that opens the door for Medicare for All. Congress must move forward with a solution that protects patients and doctors instead of delivering a win to big insurance companies.”

The Public Opinion Strategies poll of 800 registered voters in Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan was conducted between Sept. 4 and Sept. 10 and has a 3.46 percentage point margin of error.

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