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Hunter Thomas

Jefferson City

Dear Editor:

Patients in Missouri and across the country are tired of getting hammered with high medical costs, especially when they come in the form of surprise bills that get sent weeks or months after receiving care. Congress needs to put this issue to bed once and for all — and fortunately, there are several legislative measures under discussion to address this issue.

However, not all of these supposed solutions would do the job without creating new problems for our health care system. One approach called benchmarking could end up making these harder for patients, especially those living in rural parts of Missouri. Congress should avoid this approach at all costs.

Benchmarking would essentially allow the government to set drastically reduced rates for physicians that would result in hospitals and ERs incurring detrimental losses. For rural health care facilities, that could lead to an increase in the rate of provider consolidation, forcing patients to contend with higher prices and diminished access.

That's why Congress must focus on solutions that incorporate Independent Dispute Resolution (IDR). The IDR process would allow insurers and providers to negotiate out-of-network billing disputes between themselves, separating patients from the process entirely. Through the use of an unbiased, third-party mediator, the IDR process would help determine fair, market-based rates that keep Missouri's health care facilities strong, protecting access and affordability.

Missouri's congressional delegation should back this free-market approach to solving surprise medical billing and help lower the cost of health care in our state and throughout the nation.

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