Save on Surprise Medical Bills, Don’t Shock the Market

There is a problem when medical treatment – often related to emergencies – results in “surprise billing” for care. To be exact, it’s when care comes from outside a person’s insurance network.

But this doesn’t mean the government needs to start messing with the free market in a manner that “would inspire Third World socialist dictators.”

In a Salt Lake City Deseret News commentary, National Center Vice President David W. Almasi explains that proposed legislation to impose price-fixing as a means of taking the surprise out of surprise billing would actually hurt the quality of American medical care in addition to messing with the economy. He writes:

In a medical emergency, the hospital staff’s focus is on saving your life and not who’s in your insurer’s network. This means patients receiving such care may later be deemed “out of network” by their insurance companies and liable for large bills for medical care not covered by their policy.

Unfortunately, the solution to this currently pushed by the large and powerful insurance lobby in Washington is for the federal government to set price controls on what medical procedures cost. It ignores the fact that government-controlled price fixing has always led to a shortage of products and services and lower quality care overall.

If doctors and hospitals are forced to meet certain price points for care, their options will be to work at a loss, restrict their involvement in the market or just remove themselves entirely.

Stressing how this would hurt the quality of care, David adds:

At a time when the health care industry is already facing shortages in doctors – especially in rural areas – the last thing we need is to discourage medical professionals and providers from being involved in the marketplace.

Going further, David suggests arbitration through independent dispute resolution boards could be used to address the surprise billing problems:

In this style of arbitration, each side is required to submit a reasonable cost for care, with the most reasonable claim being selected by the independent review board. This approach ensures that a provider would not get away with price-gouging and an insurer could not lowball the cost of provided care.

Bipartisan legislation to set up such a system was introduced by Senator Bill Cassidy, a doctor who founded a clinic to meet the needs of underprivileged patients.

David’s comments echo the concerns of a recent coalition letter sent to congressional leaders that was signed by National Center President David A. Ridenour and the heads of over 70 other conservative organizations.

To read all of David Almasi’s Deseret News commentary – “Price Fixing Will Only Cause More Harm to America’s Health Care System” – click here.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.