On the heels of a new report showing most hospitals failing to communicate their costs to patients, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) is urging top Administration officials to ensure that a recent law implemented to end surprise medical billing is enforced and information is consumer-friendly. In a letter to Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Senator King called for collaboration between CMS, advocacy groups, and leadership of hospitals around the country to eliminate surprise billing for patients, as laid out in the “No Surprises Act,” implemented in December 2020.

Senator King’s full letter:

I write to applaud the Administration’s recent efforts to provide further guidance in implementing the “No Surprises Act,” signed into law on December 27, 2020. As a long-time supporter of transparency in our healthcare system, I urge you to ensure patient access and affordability remain central to how this law is put in practice and that compliance requirements of healthcare providers remain realistic.

In my state of Maine, patients have been able to compare prices for some of the most costly and most utilized healthcare services in Maine since October 2015. We have been fortunate to lead the country in transparency by developing and maintaining comparemaine.org. This online tool compiles data from patient satisfaction surveys, hospital prevention and outcome surveys, and cost estimates around the state from various private payers into a user-friendly platform. I believe this model should inform CMS in empowering states to provide patients with appropriate quality and cost data in an accessible format without requiring providers to report to a new federal system. While most healthcare services in Maine remain in-network, this still increases transparency and equips citizens with the information they deserve.

I strongly support the congressional intent of the bipartisan “No Surprises Act,” which incorporated input from the healthcare industry as well as advocacy groups through years of consultation. We have a lot of work ahead of us to address the affordability of healthcare services in this country, but I look forward to a seamless implementation of this important law to make sure consumers are able to make the best decisions for their families. Transparency tools are most useful when consumers are aware of them and understand how to use them. In addition to enforcing compliance with the law, CMS may want to consider the role of consumer assistance programs in educating consumers about resources at the state and federal level.

Thank you for your consideration of on this important issue.