House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) wants the House to move on legislation banning balance billing as soon as mid-February, he told reporters Tuesday.
So far, the House Energy & Commerce and Ways & Means committees have been at odds over the best approach to address payment for bills a patient receives from an out-of-network provider at an in-network facility.
"We are trying to bring those together and create a consensus so that we can move a bill, and move a bill sooner rather than later. Sooner meaning within this work period if we can get to agreement," Hoyer said, referring to the House work period that ends the week of Feb. 10.
However, some are skeptical House leaders can work out their differences that quickly after a bipartisan, bicameral compromise brokered by leaders of the House Energy & Commerce and Senate health committees fizzled last year amidst intense insurance and provider industry lobbying.
The Ways & Means Committee leaders have not yet elaborated on their proposal beyond a one-page outline released in December. Ways & Means health subcommittee Chair Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) said Tuesday he has not seen policy details beyond the one-pager.
"When we really get going it's a short month," Doggett said.
Ways & Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said Monday that he wants to shape the legislation in concert with the Energy & Commerce Committee and expects to hold a markup in the next three weeks.
Several stakeholders including hospital groups, a new conservative coalition, and physician staffing firms that oppose the Energy & Commerce proposal because of its inclusion of benchmark payment rates have not yet thrown their weight behind the Ways & Means idea and are awaiting more information.
Ways & Means ranking Republican Kevin Brady of Texas has said that he and Neal are pursuing a revenue-neutral approach to ban balance billing, though lawmakers by May 22 have to find a way to fund extensions of several Medicare and Medicaid programs including funding for community health centers and delaying cuts to Medicaid disproportionate-share hospital payments.
Neal said Monday that there may be alternative funding sources other than surprise billing legislation.
"I've got some ideas," he told reporters.
House Energy & Commerce Committee leaders estimated their bill would provide nearly $20 billion to fund community health centers for five years.
House committee chairs have missed leadership goals for surprise billing legislation before.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in December gave the chairs of the House Energy & Commerce, Ways & Means and Education & Labor committees a deadline to come to a consensus ahead of an appropriations package, but they failed to do so.