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Axne legislation addresses ‘surprise’ medical bill charges

WASHINGTON — Iowa Congressman Cindy Axne is sponsoring legislation to address some of the unwelcome surprises on medical bills.

“The Update Act will require insurance companies to regularly update their directories to prevent patients from unknowingly receiving out-of-network care,” Axne says.

The bill makes it clear insurance companies are responsible for updating the lists that show which doctors, clinics and other health care providers are “in network” — and therefore covered by an insurance policy.

“I’m hearing story after story about folks who believe that a provider is ‘in-network’ because it is displayed on the insurance company’s website as well as folks who have called in and asked specifically if a provider is in-network,” Axne says. “Later, they get a bill because that provider isn’t ‘in-network’ and they’re held responsible for it.”

The two political parties have been quarreling about health care policy for years and Axne expects large reform packages to emerge in the coming months. But Axne, a Democrat from West Des Moines, says this specific proposal is one that has bipartisan support and could be enacted quickly.

“If we can take pieces out that we know have agreement and we can move that forward and actually make a difference, then we should take every opportunity to do that,” Axne says.

A recent Stanford University study found four out of 10 patients wound up being surprised with an out-of-network charge on a medical bill. Axne says another study found 10 percent of providers listed in insurance company directories were either no longer in the company’s network — or had never been included at all.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is co-sponsoring a bill in the U.S. senate to crack down on surprising billing and Grassley, a Republican, is predicting “something’s going to pass” to address the issue.



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