Tag: Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ)

House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee Takes Action on Balance Billing

On July 11, 2019, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Health Subcommittee held a markup in which they advanced 10 health care bills, including legislation on surprise/balance billing. This legislation, H.R. 3630, the No Surprises Act attempts to address out-of-network surprise medical bills. The AAA Government Affairs team has been in regular communication with the Energy and Commerce Committee and member offices leading up to the markup to ensure that the ground ambulance industry and AAA members were not negatively impacted by the legislation or any introduced amendments.

Thanks to the attentive efforts of AAA members, staff, and consultants, there was no mention of ground ambulance during the markup of H.R. 3630, the No Surprises Act. While ground ambulance was not mentioned, Rep. Lujan (D-NM) highlighted the air ambulance transparency language that is included in the No Surprises Act and called for it to be strengthened further before this legislation is considered by the full Energy and Commerce Committee.

Over the course of the markup, Subcommittee Chairwoman Eshoo (D-CA) thanked Rep. Lujan for bringing attention to the “extraordinary costs” associated with air ambulance. Rep. Ruiz (D-CA) then expressed his ongoing concerns regarding the balance billing provisions of the No Surprises Act, citing the experience to date under California’s law. Rep. Ruiz asked to continue working with the Committee to address these issues before the bill is considered by the full Committee.  In response, Chairman Pallone (D-NJ) noted that the Energy and Commerce Committee’s approach had bipartisan support within the committee, and that it also had bipartisan support in the Senate HELP Committee. While the Chairman expressed a desire to secure all Members’ support for the bill as it moves through the full Committee, he made no promises to further change the bill.

The educational efforts undertaken during the last several months appears to have helped the Members of the Energy and Commerce Committee to understand the complexities involved in the local control and oversight of ground ambulance services; however, the risk that the Congress could modify this approach to supporting local control remains as the legislation moves forward. The AAA Government Affairs team and Balance Billing Working Group will remain vigilant regarding all balance billing proposals in order to prevent any that would negatively impact AAA members and the ground ambulance industry.

Member Update on Balance Billing

This morning Ruth Hazdovac and Aidan Camas of AAA staff and Kathy Lester, Esq, Healthcare Consultant to the AAA attended a briefing held by the House Energy & Commerce Committee on the issue of surprise/balance billing. At the briefing, staff for Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) announced that they would be releasing a bipartisan discussion draft, the No Surprises Act, which would “protect consumers from surprise medical bills and increase transparency in our health care system.”

As of now, ground and air ambulances are NOT included in the discussion draft. However, the committee is asking for comments on ground and air ambulance and recommendations on how to provide relief to the consumer in this area. The AAA has a Balance Billing Work Group that is hard at work developing a policy recommendation that will work for our members.

The House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Lloyd Doggett also announced today that the Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing next week entitled “Hearing on Protecting Patients from Surprise Medical Bills.” AAA Staff will be at the briefing and provide a timely update to membership on any developments.

The AAA team will be submitting comments and policy recommendations based off the work of the Balance Billing Work Group to both the Energy & Commerce and Ways & Means Committee to ensure that the views of our members are well represented. We will also be reaching out to AAA members in the states of key policymakers on the Committees to submit comments, as well. The AAA will also provide members with key talking points in the event they are contact by their Members of Congress or their staff.

Questions? Contact Us

If you have questions about the discussion draft or balance billing initiatives being undertaken by the AAA, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the AAA Government Affairs Team.

Tristan North – Senior Vice President of Government Affairs
tnorth@ambulance.org | (202) 802-9025

Ruth Hazdovac – AAA Senior Manager of Federal Government Affairs
rhazdovac@ambulance.org | (202) 802-9027

Aidan Camas – Manager of State & Federal Government Affairs
acamas@ambulance.org | (202) 802-9026

Thank you for your continued membership and support.

Mid-term Election Analysis

As a result of Tuesdays’ elections, Democrats will control the U.S. House of Representatives next Congress and Republicans will have a larger majority in the United States Senate. Presently, Democrats have gained a net of 30 seats in the House with Republicans netting two seats in the Senate. Democrats needed to capture 23 seats from Republicans to gain the majority. There are still several races in the House and Senate to be called which will likely add to those totals.

Akin Gump, the lobbying firm for the AAA, has put together a synopsis of the election results as of this morning and a slide deck on historical trends and the outcome of races called so far.

Key supporters of the industry who will not be returning next Congress include Representatives Peter Roskam (R-IL), Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Erik Paulsen (R-MN). All three members have been supportive of ambulance initiatives with Roskam in his position as Chair of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee and Paulsen as a member of the Subcommittee. Coffman sponsored legislation to apply the prudent layperson definition to emergency ambulance services provided to veterans. In late breaking news, the Senate race in Montana was called in favor for Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) who has been very supportive on several EMS policies.

As to the changes in Committee leadership with Democrats taking control of the House, Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA) will become Chair of the Ways and Means Committee and Kevin Brady (R-TX) will become Ranking Member. Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) will likely become Chair of the Health Subcommittee with the top candidate for Ranking Member being Devin Nunes (R-CA). On the Energy and Commerce Committee, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) will become Chair and Greg Walden (R-OR) will become Ranking Member.

In the Senate, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) will likely become Chair of the Senate Finance Committee In lieu of Senator Hatch who is retiring. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) will continue in his role as Ranking Member of the Committee.

The AAA has good relationships with all the likely Chairs and Ranking Members of the key Committees of jurisdiction as well as with House and Senate leaders of both political parties. Several of them have championed causes for the industry and we will continue to be well-positioned next year to push our initiatives. We will be reaching out to you in the coming weeks to help build upon our list of champions and supporters in the new Congress.