Letter: Morse has wrong prescription for surprise medical billing issue
Letter to the editor:
I received an email today from the Alex Morse campaign criticizing our U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, for not passing surprise medical billing legislation that came before the House a few months ago. Mr. Morse complains that Rep. Neal blocked this bill and blames that, as he does with everything, on campaign contributions to the Neal campaign. In this case, not only is Mr. Morse wrong, but his solution of passing the bill presented a few months ago would have further hurt the very constituents he purports to be worried about.
Surprise medical billing is a big problem. By this, I mean, for example, a person needing services will go to a provider (doctor, emergency room, etc.) in their insured network, but that provider might send tests or blood work or other services to a provider outside of the patient's network. That person is then surprised by bills that they reasonably thought were covered under their insurance plan. This should not happen, and some of us have been working with Rep. Neal to make sure we can resolve this problem. The plan that was sent to Rep. Neal a few months ago, and that Mr. Morse is criticizing the congressman for not passing, would have allowed insurers to set minimum rates for services. Hospitals and doctors would then have to try to negotiate higher rates with reluctant insurers in order to receive anything other than a very low basic rate.
In areas such as Western Massachusetts, we don't have the market clout to negotiate higher rates. The result would be doctors facing a choice of leaving to go elsewhere, losing money (further degrading services) or not providing the services at all. None of these are good outcomes for our area and that is why the congressman didn't pass the bill. It should be unacceptable to anyone who cares about constituents in the district.
Instead, Rep. Neal has worked to create a bill that would protect patients who have a reasonable right to expect their insurance will cover them. He wants to create a system with rates for services that are negotiated between insurance companies and providers. That would ensure that our regional hospitals in Western Mass. would be treated fairly and, by extension, would protect the constituents who expect an insurance system that works for them. Morse's plan would not do that, and his criticism is unfair and unwise.
Thank you, Rep. Neal, for rejecting a bill that would be bad for your constituents and for working diligently on a bill that would protect them. Surprise medical billing is a pervasive and damaging issue and it is great to know that you are working to protect your constituents from a solution that would be bad for this area.
The writer is a former state representative of the 1st Berkshire District.
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