Roe supports legislation on medical residency programs, surprise medical billing

Brandon Paykamian • May 23, 2019 at 8:24 PM

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, recently joined other legislators seeking to address two critical areas of concern in the world of health care — surprise medical billing and the growth of medical residency programs. 

Last week, the congressman and retired physician co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to encourage the growth of medical residency programs. He also joined other legislators in releasing a legislative outline of a recent bill opposing surprise medical billing Thursday. 

Encouraging medical education growth 

H.R. 2815, sponsored by Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., and co-sponsored by Roe, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., aims to reauthorize section 340H of the Public Health Service Act “to encourage the expansion, maintenance and establishment of approved graduate medical residency programs at qualified teaching health centers and for other purposes.”

"Our country is facing significant shortages of providers in the coming years, and it’s clear that it’s time for an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach to create as many opportunities as possible to train qualified young physicians to take care of our rapidly aging population,” Roe said in an emailed statement to the Johnson City Press. “Teaching health centers are made up of a mixture of federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics and tribal health centers. These centers provide critical care to some of our nation’s most vulnerable and traditionally underserved populations and provide excellent opportunities to train young providers.

“I hope that by expanding this program, this legislation will provide federally qualified health centers in our region — which includes the facilities run by East Tennessee State University, Rural Health Services Consortium, Rural Medical Services and Cherokee Health — an opportunity to apply for grant funding and provide another avenue to train the next generation of doctors who will serve East Tennesseans.” 

Michael Ostapchuk, associate dean of graduate medical education at ETSU’s Quillen College of Medicine, said he believes bipartisan legislation supporting additional residency program funding is important, considering the finite federal funding that comes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 

“It would be great to have more pediatric residents, and it would be great just to have more primary medicine residents — more residents in general — to provide the health needs of the area,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a partisan issue — it’s a people issue, a community issue, a national issue.”

Protecting People from Surprise Medical Bills Act

To discourage surprise medical billing, Roe joined others on Capitol Hill in supporting bipartisan legislation that aims to “protect patients from unfair and expensive surprise medical bills.”

The finalized Protecting People from Surprise Medical Bills Act is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.

The legislation drew the support of Roe; Ruiz; Van Taylor, R-Texas; Joseph Morelle D-N.Y.; Larry Bucshon, R-Ind.; Ami Bera, D-Calif.; Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio; and Donna Shalala, D-Fla. 

“For too long, these bills have negatively impacted patients and families across our nation causing financial stress when working out how to pay for costly, unexpected bills,” Roe said. 

“With around 180 million Americans receiving their health care coverage from an employer in a large group plan controlled by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), it is time they have some peace of mind that a surprise bill won’t financially wipe them out,” the congressman said. “Similar laws have proven successful in New York and Maryland for state-based plans, and I am hopeful these principles will soon lead to legislation that will be the solution we need to help protect patients.”

The bill aims to ban the practice of billing patients for unanticipated out-of-network care, improve transparency by requiring health plans to clearly identify in-network providers and patients’ deductibles and implement an arbitration model that “identifies a reasonable payment rate when insurers and providers cannot agree on the cost of care.” 

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