Despite dark money group Doctor Patient Unity funding an avalanche of ads in her home state, Iowa Rep. Cindy Axne is leading the way on combating surprise medical bills.
The congresswoman led a group of freshman Democrats in introducing the “UPDATE Act” to protect Americans from surprise bills due to out-of-date insurance directories.
“Iowans should be able to trust that when their insurance company tells them a provider is in network, they won’t get hit with a surprise out-of-network bill,” said Axne, Iowa’s 3rd District congresswoman, in a press release. “Middle-class Iowa families can’t afford to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in surprise medical bills because an insurance company didn’t update their website. This common-sense legislation puts the onus on insurance companies to ensure Iowans are making medical decisions based on accurate information.”
Doctor Patient Unity has pushed back on plans to make medical billing more transparent because it claims that would lead to hospital closures and doctor shortages across the country. Their ads have been called misleading by actual doctors.
The group has already spent $108,722 on ads in Iowa targeting Republican Sen. Joni Ernst.
According to Axne’s news release, insurance companies are not legally required to update their directories with accurate network information. As a result, patients across the country receive what they believe to be in-network care, only to be billed later for high costs associated with out-of-network services.
The “UPDATE Act” will require insurance companies to check with a provider if they have not received a bill from them in the last six months.
Ten percent of providers listed in insurance directories were either no longer in-network, or had never been in network at all, according to a recent study.
Fellow Iowa Democrat U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer joined Axne in supporting the bill.
“I am fighting every day to drive down health care costs and improve access for Iowans,” Finkenauer said, in a statement. “Iowans expect honesty, and this bill will help provide that when they choose their healthcare by helping ensure they aren’t unknowingly going to providers that are out of their coverage network.
I want to make sure Iowans don’t get hit with a larger bill than they expected,” she said, “and that is something all of Washington should be able to work on together.”
By Paige Godden
Photo by Julie Fleming