Protect patients from surprise bills

To the editor,

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) has been vocal about the need for a federal solution to protect patients from out-of-network, or surprise, billing. Despite the distraction tactics and big-budget ad spends that have recently hijacked these important conversations, ACEP has been involved in Congressional discussions on this issue since early 2018 and has consistently supported a ban on balance billing of patients, as long as the mechanism ensures patient access to care won’t be compromised.

ACEP serves as the voice of individual emergency physicians regardless of where they practice. Our membership comprises emergency physicians from all walks of life who practice and are employed in a variety of work environments that range from academic settings or teaching hospitals, to emergency physician groups that are either managed or independently owned and operated by the physicians. In fact, the vast majority (85 percent) of emergency physician groups are made up of 50 or fewer physicians.

ACEP’s leadership is as diverse as our members, and once democratically elected by peers, the ACEP president represents the entire field of emergency medicine. ACEP’s Council, a legislative body of elected emergency physicians, votes on resolutions that serve as the foundation for ACEP’s federal and state advocacy positions.

On behalf of all emergency physicians, ACEP is concerned by several proposals currently being debated in Congress. Not only will they fail to adequately solve surprise bills for emergency patients, they could severely affect small emergency physician practices and threaten access to the vital health-care safety net they provide, particularly in rural and underserved communities.

Granting insurers license to squeeze physicians harder will push even more doctors out of network and put access to emergency care at risk. Allowing insurers to further manipulate rates will shift even more of the burden to patients while driving physicians out of the market.

Smaller physician groups are already disadvantaged when attempting to negotiate contracts with insurers, and they have expressed their concerns to Congress. That’s why 60 smaller independent practices, which collectively provide emergency care to 7.3 million patients annually, sent a letter urging the House Education and Labor, and Ways and Means Committees to consider their unique perspective and the importance of making sure that federal legislation does not limit their ability to provide high-quality emergency care for patients.

ACEP will continue to work with Congress on behalf of all emergency physicians to find a federal solution to protect patients from out-of-network surprise billing that avoids any unintended consequences to the broader health-care system.

Visit www.ProtectEmergencyCare.org for more information.

– Steve Arnoff, The American College of Emergency Physicians