As a former member of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, I am all too familiar with the challenges our doctors, our hospitals and their patients in rural Maine are facing. Too often insurance companies dispute the reimbursement that hospitals feel they are due. Similarly, patients are frequently shocked by surprise and unexpected medical bills, particularly in serious medical circumstances. Bills that patients thought would be significantly less are often not, due to out-of-network providers. That is why there need to be some solutions to the problems many face with surprise medical bills.
Congress is seeking a solution and the President sees the need for a better option. I am asking my delegation to think carefully but move decisively to address this problem. The Maine Legislature should pass a bill that directs establishing an independent dispute resolution (IDR) specialist to weigh in on this matter between the health insurer and the health provider. It also gives some relief to patients in dealing with their health issues and any subsequent procedures and recovery.
Some want to create a system where the health insurer sets the rate for these doctors. As one who has served many years on our local hospital board, I also recognize what this can mean to our facility and the dedicated doctors who serve there. It is challenging enough to find good doctors committed to providing services to patients in rural areas, but forcing them to accept rates that many times cannot cover their expenses is a recipe for failure. While many doctors don’t want to be wealthy, they do want to pay their bills.
I respectfully urge Sen. Collins to keep advocating for Mainers and support the IDR proposal before Congress. I appreciate her dedication and service to our state.