As Surprise Billing Ban Nears, Doctors and Hospitals Scramble to Delay Federal Law

USA Today

December 11, 2021 11:17 am

Nearly 1 in 5  hospital visits result in patients getting the unwelcome surprise of an unexpectedly large bill because doctors or other providers weren’t part of their insurer’s network.

To protect consumers, Congress passed the bipartisan No Surprises Act last December. But doctors and hospital groups are trying to delay its Jan. 1 rollout over a narrow but crucial portion they contend unfairly favors insurers.

On Thursday, the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and individual hospitals and doctors sued the federal government to halt federal regulators’ proposed arbitration rules that would effectively end the most common forms of surprise billing.

The proposed rule unveiled by the Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies would give providers and insurers 30 days to hash out disagreements over payments or submit to binding arbitration to settle disputes. The lawsuit said regulators misinterpreted the law and proposed an “unfair and unlawful” arbitration system that starts with benchmark rates already negotiated by health insurers – the median, in-network rate for similar medical services.