Last week the White House issued an Executive Order that addressed, in part, healthcare cost transparency and surprise billing. The Administration urged Congress to act on legislation to end the practice of balance billing by December 31, 2020 and directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, to provide more public information on price transparency and billing.
It was reported that the White House had been considering a surprise billing order that would have been a more substantive part of the announcement but instead reverted to tasking Congress with resolving the issue. One of the options, sources say, under consideration was an executive order to ban healthcare providers from surprise billing patients as a condition of participating in the Medicare program, an idea with limited support from GOP lawmakers and other ‘outside’ groups. Both parties have been calling for action for over a year yet, despite bipartisan support, Congress has failed to reach a legislative solution.
Notwithstanding the deep divide between insurers and providers over the best approach to addressing the issue from rate-setting favored by payers to baseball-style arbitration favored by providers, the order states, ‘in the event a legislative solution is not reached by December 31, 2020, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall take administrative action to prevent a patient from receiving a bill for out-of-pocket expenses’.