Majority of public OK with hospitals, docs paying more due to surprise billing change

Surprise bills
A slight majority of Americans are fine with providers getting paid less in a bill to end surprise billing, according to a new poll. (Callie Richmond for Kaiser Health News)

A majority of Americans are fine with hospitals and doctors getting paid less in any legislative solution to end surprise billing, according to a new poll.

The poll released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) comes as payment to providers remains a sticking point in efforts to end surprise medical bills.

The poll found that 78% of respondents supported legislation that protects patients from having to pay surprise out-of-network medical bills. However, that number shrinks to 57% after respondents hear opponents’ arguments that such legislation would lead to doctors and hospitals getting paid less for the services they provide.

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The poll underscores the biggest obstacle to enacting surprise medical bill legislation: how to pay providers. Both the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed legislation that would pay providers a benchmark rate for out-of-network care.

RELATED: One reason surprise billing solutions are so tricky for hospitals

However, provider groups have balked at the benchmark rate, charging that it gives insurers too much power to set rates. Providers instead want to use a “baseball-style” arbitration method where both the provider and insurer submit their desired rates to an arbiter who then picks one.

The Senate HELP legislation includes only a benchmark. While the House legislation also primarily relies on a benchmark, it does turn to arbitration as a backstop if there are disputes over the rate.

RELATED: Experts on Capitol Hill: Solution to surprise billing should fall to hospitals, insurers and not patients

Neither the Senate nor House legislation has received final votes. Several House committees are reportedly working up their own legislation to tackle surprise medical bills.

KFF’s poll was based on a survey conducted among 1,205 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

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