The Senate is kicking its vote on a sweeping healthcare package to the fall. The legislation from the health committee includes reforms to hospital and insurer contracts and the closely watched ban on surprise medical bills.
Senate health committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said Wednesday that the Senate "does not have time before the August recess" to consider legislation, although Alexander previously told reporters this week that he hoped for a vote before the recess. Disputes are ongoing over the proposal to ban surprise medical bills with a cap on charges for out-of-network care.
"We are engaged in very productive conversations about this legislation with our colleagues in the Senate and the House, and will continue to work during August and into September to move this legislation forward," the senators said.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who is leading the charge to make the ban on surprise billing more provider-friendly, said on Wednesday he is still in talks with Alexander about changes. The committee already softened the language for hospitals, to allow special considerations for those in rural areas.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee conceded last week to a push by Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) to add an arbitration backstop in certain circumstances for charges of at least $1,250. But Cassidy made it clear he is pushing for more. He doesn't want arbitration limited to bills above a certain amount.
The House will leave town for August recess at the end of this week without voting on the Energy and Commerce Committee package. Meanwhile, the House Ways and Means Committee wants to introduce its own proposal.
White House officials have signaled they don't favor an arbitration model.