Healthcare Roundup—Texas joins states taking aim at surprise hospital bills

Surprise bills
Texas lawmakers introduced a bill to block the practice of balance billing, or the practice of providers charging patients the difference when insurers refuse to cover the cost of a procedure. (Callie Richmond for KHN)

Texas joins states taking aim at surprise hospital bills

Texas lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have joined forces to take aim at the problem of patients covered by state-regulated plans getting smacked with surprise medical bills. 

Specifically, the lawmakers introduced legislation that would bar emergency care providers from the practice of balance billing, or the practice of providers charging patients the difference when insurers refuse to cover the cost of a procedure. 

As the Texas Tribune reported, "unexpected and often confusing bills result when disputes between out-of-network doctors and insurance companies leave patients holding the bag."

California passed a law banning balance billing that went to effect in 2017 and a collection of other sites. (Texas Tribune

Wisconsin's Governor proposes Medicaid expansion

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers plans to call for expanding Medicaid in that state, according to his proposed budget. 

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Wisconsin was the only state to partially expand eligibility for Medicaid but not take the additional federal dollars available through the Affordable Care Act to cover most of the cost.

The governor's proposed budget calls for expanding Medicaid to the threshold that would allow the state to receive the additional federal dollars. (Journal Sentinel)

Moderate Democrats push back on 'Medicare for All'

Moderate House Democrats are fighting back against the progressives’ proposal of “Medicare for All.”

Top Democrats fear a political pushback in the upcoming 2020 elections if liberals continue to push funding for abortion and the elimination of private health insurance. Until now, leaders have been trying to avoid an interparty clash so have agreed to hold hearings on the Medicare for All proposal.

“There’s got to be a sense of order and priorities that have been out there in the campaign: Reducing drug prices, strengthen the ACA, all of that,” Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., said.“Those are consensus items because we not only campaigned on them, it was the No. 1 issue in every single congressional district.” (Politico)

U.S. medical schools losing ground on diversity, study says

Medical schools in the U.S. are losing ground when it comes to racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity, according to a perspective piece published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The authors said that between 1997 and 2017, the number of students studying at U.S. medical schools who were from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in medicine increased by 30%. But because the overall number of students in medical school increased by 54%, the proportion of those from underrepresented groups actually dropped from 15% to 13%. As a result, the overall rate of medical school attendance by members of underrepresented groups fell by nearly 20%, the authors said, and the numbers of black male medical students and American Indian or Alaska Native medical school students all decreased.

The authors said medical schools need to redesign their admissions criteria and processes to address the disparities and educate classes of students that more closely mirror the U.S. population. (NEJM perspective piece)