In rural America, access to health care providers and facilities is always a challenge. Many of us rely on a limited number of options for hospitals and medical providers to service the needs of our community.
Across the country, the strain on the health care system these past months has only been amplified as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But if that weren’t challenging enough, big insurance companies have been busy at work in Washington trying to stick patients and doctors with even more costs all while raking in huge profits during this public health emergency.
If insurance companies are successful in getting Congress to pass “rate-setting” legislation, it will allow insurers to arbitrarily set below-market reimbursement rates for the critical care provided by our rural physicians and medical facilities. The costs that insurance companies refuse to cover would have to be paid by doctors, hospitals, and even patients who often don’t have the ability to select an in-network facility in their communities. If passed, frontline medical workers who are putting themselves in harm’s way every single day could see a 20 percent pay cut which risks hospital closure threatens the health and care of Americans in rural areas.
There’s a clear and better choice: Congress can pass Independent Dispute Resolution to end surprise medical billing of patients and ensure that billing disputes between insurance companies and medical providers are mediated by an objective third-party. This bipartisan legislation will ensure that patients aren’t stuck with financially devastating bills and rural medical providers aren’t at risk of closing their doors.
Those of us faced with limited health care options need Congress to make it easier for us to obtain the critical care we need in the moments that matter most.
David Biddle is the vice-chairman of Stand Up North Florida.