By Chris Pirschel, Staff Writer, and Alec Stone, ONS Public Affairs Director

Surprise Billing Legislation Finds Compromise

Surprise medical bills—a long-time problem for patients and consumers—was not on the legislative radar until recently. In short order, the issue has quickly moved through the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill, to offer some hope for consumers. Part of the committee’s mark up added an amendment allowing for arbitration to address specific medical charges if hospitals disagreed with the agreed-upon rate. Some committee members felt that without it, providers would have limited recourse in special circumstances.

It’s not a perfect solution in legislation aiming to cut skyrocketing medical costs, but it’s one both sides accepts. The Senate will now take up the measure, and it could make it to the president’s desk shortly. It’s a bipartisan solution to a very real problem for patients.

Drug Pricing Reform Conversation Stalls

Both the House and Senate have held multiple drug pricing hearings in 2019 to grill corporate executives on their role in the pricing process and hear testimony from patient advocates with harrowing stories that moved elected officials and staffers alike. Despite the attention paid to drug pricing reform, advocates are getting frustrated that health policy has seen no real change to provide consumers relief from high prescription drug costs.

Congress was on track to take action—even sharing potential legislation—but then the work stalled. For close to three months, nothing has changed for drug pricing reform to lower costs or provide more access to patients. Although some form of reform may happen before the 2020 presidential election, acrimony among parties continues to rise and a bipartisan answer seems unlikely.

GOP Still Seeks ACA Repeal

Many conservative lawmakers have not supported the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and looked to alternative routes to weaken and dismantle the law. Although the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has twice upheld ACA as constitutional, the GOP has found other avenues to chisel away at the law piece by piece. State attorneys general have filed suits, and on July 14 a three-judge panel ruled against the law.

SCOTUS has not announced whether it will hear the case. The question also remains as to what the Republicans in Congress seek to offer as an alternative solution for health insurance coverage to the millions of Americans enrolled in ACA’s health insurance marketplace. No matter the outcome, ONS will be front and center in the advocacy discussion for patients with cancer and access to affordable health care.