by Harry J. Monroe, Jr.
ACEP Director, Chapter and State Relations
Two years after the nearly miraculous successful retreat by the British army from Dunkirk, Prime Minister Winston Churchill remarked on the first actual British victory of the war by declaring, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
We may be at a similar point in our legislative battles over balance billing and out of network reimbursement. In many states, policymakers that have been considering the issue for multiple sessions will look to address the issue once and for all. Thus, it will be important that we stand ready to engage an issue that continues to pose a threat to our specialty and most importantly, access to care for our patients. Certainly, we want to be paid fairly, but we also want to focus on making sure that insurer practices are not causing patients to delay receiving emergency care out of uncertainty as to what the insurer will pay.
ACEP has developed, and is continuing to refine, resources to help states engaging this issue. On our website you will find numerous documents that will be of help in working on this issue, including talking points, copies of written testimony produced in a number of states, information on why Medicare is not a sound benchmark for determining reimbursement, and many other materials. I would encourage you to take a look.
Additionally, we have worked hard over the last two years to build relationships with other specialty societies and the AMA, based on shared consensus principles and solutions documents that are included on the website, that have helped us collaborate on these issues. In most states that we have engaged, the national collaboration has helped with building alliances at the state level, with the result that the house of medicine has been largely united in our response to legislation. In addition to fighting off bad legislation, we have looked for opportunities to promote positive legislation on the issue, and model legislation has been developed to that end. In addition, to our collaboration with other specialties, another outside organization, Physicians for Fair Coverage, has been formed and has helped to provide and coordinate resources in this fight.
At the time of this writing, we are also working on developing regional teams of experts that can help provide assistance in terms of legislative interpretation, understanding financial impacts, and advocacy. These should be in place by the time 2018 sessions begin.
We believe that as many as 25 states will see significant efforts by legislatures to address balance billing and out of network legislation this year. If you are facing it in your state, reach out to me via email or at 972-550-0911, ext. 3204.
In addition to balance billing and out of network issues, there will be many other important issues to address in the coming year. The prudent layperson standard remains under attack in many places by both Medicaid and commercial payers. The opioid epidemic continues to be a critical public policy concern. Of course, what the federal government does about health care, and how that filters down to the state level, promises to require our attention. This will be a busy year at the state house!