Several conservative advocacy groups on Wednesday formed a coalition opposing any solution to protect consumers from surprise medical bills that uses benchmark payments, an approach that providers disdain.
The alliance, dubbed the Coalition Against Rate-Setting, casts the use of benchmark payments as "federal price-fixing." The approach underpins a bipartisan surprise billing compromise authored by Senate health committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), health committee ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), House Energy & Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Energy & Commerce ranking member Greg Walden (R-Ore.).
Members of the new conservative coalition include the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, Heritage Action for America, the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, Citizens Against Government Waste, the National Taxpayers Union and others.
The conservative groups are breaking with the White House, which supports the bicameral compromise legislation. Health policy experts and supporters of the legislation argue that a benchmark payment approach would produce the most efficient outcomes across the healthcare system. However, providers were unsatisfied with the compromise bill's benchmark payments and $750 median payment threshold for arbitration.
The coalition plans to run digital ads, but has not decided on a specific ad spend yet, according to a spokesperson.
"This coalition is prepared to push back against ill-considered rate-setting proposals and educate lawmakers and the public on the perils of federal meddling in healthcare decisions," Taxpayers Protection Alliance President David Williams said in a statement.
The House Ways & Means Committee is developing a different approach to addressing surprise billing that does not appear to be based on a benchmark payment. The Ways & Means Committee is aiming for a revenue-neutral bill, while negotiators of the bicameral compromise legislation say their bill would save the federal government nearly $20 billion.
The Coalition Against Rate-Setting does not have a firm position on the Ways & Means Committee's one-page outline. Taxpayers Protection Alliance spokeswoman Grace Morgan said the group sees the committee's outline as a promising first step, and that the coalition plans to engage with Ways & Means Committee members to "guide them in the right direction."
Congressional leaders have said they hope to include legislation banning balance billing in a must-pass package to provide funding for several Medicare and Medicaid programs that expire on May 22.