Letter to the editor: Congress must stop surprise medical billing

A major issue facing patients in Vermont and around the country is surprise medical billing. This occurs when a patient is treated by a health care provider who is out of network and can often happen when a patient seeks emergency medical care. The subsequent bill for that service can come as a complete shock to patients who, most of the time, have no idea they were being treated out of network. Thankfully, Congress is now addressing this matter.

I encourage Sen. Leahy’s efforts to look at this issue through the lens of rural healthcare providers and to consider a model that New York implemented in 2005. The New York law allows doctors and insurers to enter into a negotiation process using an arbitration model. The arbitrator picks one proposed price, forcing insurers and providers to offer a fair price that they hope will be accepted. In this way, the patient is spared from having to get involved, and providers are reimbursed fairly for services they have provided.

Sen. Leahy has long been a champion for Vermont’s rural people and institutions. Because there are multiple proposals on the table, I ask that the senator please consider all the impacts each one will have on Vermont healthcare providers and patients and continue his tradition of standing up for those in rural areas. I urge him to pay particularly close attention to the impact on rural providers who are already struggling to stay afloat.

Former State Sen. Claire Ayer

Middlebury

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Addison County Independent

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Middlebury, VT 05753

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