Letter: Call out insurers on surprise medical bills

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To the editor:

Even as health insurance companies report record profits, I regularly read about the growing crisis of Surprise Medical Billing (SMB). This one of the reasons that their profits are so high. They continuously fail to conscientiously consider the patients over maximizing record profits.

SMB occurs when health insurers won't pay for medical care and, instead, those costs are shunted off to patients who can scarcely afford them. So, are the insurance companies pocketing more profits at the expense of patients they claim to insure? It sure looks that way.

The SMB crisis is now so pervasive that Congress is considering various measures to resolve the issue. Some "solutions" advanced by the insurance companies would wring even more money out of patients, doctors, and hospitals. Insurers want to set benchmark reimbursement rates for out-of-network care far below the actual costs of delivering that care. Why? Because they could then reduce their provider networks, consistently pay the below-market rate, and pocket the difference as pure profit.

The insurers are canny enough to understand the public outcry if these measures were fully and publicly debated under CSPAN's bright lights. So rather than risk the public and political blowback, they're trying to quietly slip this legislation into the last minute, end-of-the-year appropriations bill, desperately hoping it gets little or no public attention. I would be shocked if this weren't playing so true to form.

I know that Congressman Neal sees through the sham. He agrees that our health insurance system is wildly out-of-whack. The insurance companies have far too much control and it's about time we say enough. After all, we pay for it. If the insurance companies are not call out on their actions, hospitals are likely to close; physicians would hang up their stethoscopes; and patients who need care the most would suffer the most, both medically and financially.

Please get vocal and stop this threat. The best medicine for the insurance companies right now is the clean, disinfecting light of a full, public Congressional debate. I'd like to see them defend themselves when Congressman Neal presents examples of the horrible outcomes of the insurance companies' pure greed on national television. Finally, someone may listen.

Gregory Betti,

North Adams

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