WI Voters Concerned About Potential Federal Legislation on Surprise Billing

Concerned legislation favors big insurance companies

September 24, 2019

Wisconsin voters are wary that federal legislation aimed at ending surprise medical billing may be letting health insurance companies off the hook. That’s according to a memo from a GOP pollster for President Donald Trump who did polling on the issue in critical 2020 swing states.

According to a story from the politics website “The Hill,” the poll was conducted at the end of August and surveyed voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Fifty-six percent of Wisconsin voters feel health insurers should be most responsible for paying surprise medical bills, while less than 12% think providers should be held responsible. Even more telling is that a paltry 6% of voters in Wisconsin support a government program that would set rates to control costs, which is among the solutions presented in legislation passed in federal House and Senate committees. In fact, the pollster warned, “Any policy to address this issue that appears to side with the insurance companies could backfire because they are seen as the problem.”

Using feedback from its Transparency Task Force, which has met over the summer months and provided valuable feedback on current legislative proposals, WHA has made surprise billing a major advocacy effort, with stops in Washington, D.C. and roundtables in Wisconsin aimed at letting Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation know the problems with legislation currently up for debate in Washington. WHA supports efforts to reduce instances of surprise billing by taking patients out of the middle. However, it has warned lawmakers that current proposals to institute government price controls would only reward insurance companies and could lead to challenges for hospitals and lack of provider choices for patients. The problems would be felt the most in rural hospitals that already run on thin margins and deal with provider shortages.

Instead, WHA has supported allowing insurers and providers to continue to work out billing disputes, while having an independent dispute resolution process serve as a backstop in cases where the two parties cannot reach an agreement—a process that seems to have seen positive results in states like Texas and New York that have had higher instances of surprise billing than Wisconsin. According to the poll, more than 3 out of 4 voters in Wisconsin agree with this approach. 

What is perhaps most notable about the poll is that it was done for President Trump months after the President has come out publicly in support of having Congress and his administration work on solutions to end surprise billing, with his administration publicly saying it does not favor an arbitration approach. While the state of efforts in Washington is uncertain, WHA will continue to closely engage with lawmakers as Congress continues its work. 

If you have questions regarding this issue, contact WHA Director of Federal and State Relations Jon Hoelter.

This story originally appeared in the September 24, 2019 edition of WHA Newsletter