Washington, D.C. – In response to the current negotiations underway regarding surprise medical bills, the Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing issued the following statement:

“For the last two years, millions of American patients, their families and workers across the country have waited for Congress to do the right thing and take action to protect them against out-of-network providers and private equity firms that unfairly profited from these outrageous charges. As these negotiations continue, policymakers must refrain from rewarding private equity firms and out-of-network providers – the very ones who started this crisis – with an arbitration hand-out that would allow them to continue ‘balance billing’ patients at their most vulnerable moments. Congress cannot in good conscious move forward with a stand-alone arbitration proposal and expect patients to be protected.

Implementing a new federal arbitration process amounts to a dangerous shell-game for the country and incentivizes the very price-gouging that we are all trying to stop. States that have implemented this flawed process, including New York, Texas and New Jersey, created a new loophole for private equity firms to exploit, leading to significantly higher costs for patients and employers.

Nearly every leading economist and policy expert has asserted time and time again that the best and only way to safeguard consumers is by aligning out-of-network charges with private, in-network negotiated payments between health insurance providers and physicians, hospitals and other specialists. The track-record of success with these reforms, including in California, reinforces the real-world success of fair, market-based rates in expanding access to affordable, in-network care and removing the threat of bankrupting bills for patients.

The path forward is abundantly clear – supporting fair, market-based payments is vital as part of any federal surprise billing package. Any attempt to erode this fundamental consumer protection through a flawed arbitration proposal takes $25 billion in essential cost-savings away from American families and community health centers and funnels it directly to private equity profits. If Congress moves forward with arbitration, policymakers would be acting against the clear intent of the American public with voters overwhelmingly calling for fair, negotiated payments as the cornerstone of any federal reforms.

Private equity firms have spent more than $50 million seeking to block patient protections against surprise medical bills. Now is not the time to give them the upper hand over patients as so many Americans are still struggling with the financial and economic impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic.