CQ: Health Chairman Backs Surprise Bills Remedy, But Senators Divided Modern Healthcare: Alexander Supports In-Network Guarantee To End Surprise Medical Bills An MRI is one of those standard tests that doctors order routinely. But the price you’ll pay can be unpredictable. Sometimes the price tag depends on where you live: It could reach $10,000 in San Francisco. Or be as low as $1,000 in St. Louis — if you’re willing to haggle. And the kind of imaging center you choose often makes a difference: Was it a fancy specialty hospital linked to a university or a standalone facility at the mall? (Weissmann, 6/19) The chair of the Senate health committee showed his support for the so-called “network matching” policy to end surprise medical bills, a proposal sharply opposed by specialty physician groups and the hospitals that employ them. In a committee hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said the policy, under which hospitals would have to guarantee to their patients that any doctor they see is in-network, is the one he “instinctively liked the best.” (Luthi, 6/18) There was also broad support among the witnesses for some of the legislation’s transparency measures, especially the creation of a nongovernmental nonprofit organization to collect claims data from private health plans, Medicare and some states to create what’s called an all-payer claims database. That could help policymakers better understand the true cost of care, these experts told the committee. (Bluth, 6/18) Providers such as doctors and payers such as insurers agree that there should be an end to surprise medical bills — a hot-button issue that President Donald Trump wants to address through legislation this summer. But their disagreement over how to settle payment disputes has been the central sticking point in negotiations over a ban on surprise bills. Alexander declined to tell reporters if he would move forward with the in-network guarantee approach. “We’ll see,” he said after the hearing. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the panel’s top Democrat, similarly declined to say if she supports an in-network guarantee. Washington Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat who is seeking the party’s White House nomination, signed legislation last month with a different approach to banning surprise bills, which would use a third-party arbitrator if a payer and provider could not agree on payment. (McIntire, 6/18) In other health care costs news — In Debate Over What To Do About Surprise Medical Bills, Alexander Hints At Support For In-Network Guarantee Although many lawmakers agree that patients need to be protected from surprise medical bills, there are different ways that could go and many stakeholders who have strong opinions on what the solution should be. At a hearing on Wednesday, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander said that requiring hospitals to guarantee that any doctor a patient sees is in-network is the strategy he “intrinsically liked the best.” But the future of any legislation is still unclear. Kaiser Health News: Senators Agree Surprise Medical Bills Must Go. But How? Kaiser Health News: ‘An Arm And A Leg’: Can You Shop Around For A Lower-Priced MRI? This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.