“Benchmarking” is a word being used in Washington these days to describe a plan in Congress that some believe would end surprise medical bills, but in reality, it would destroy rural health care in our country.

Surprise medical bills need to be addressed. They happen when you have an emergency and don’t have time to network shop for care. Unfortunately, because insurance companies have been shrinking networks, many people get stuck with a bill after getting emergency care. But benchmarking is not the solution.

Under benchmarking, doctors and hospitals that are out of network would be required to take in-network rates. Sounds great until you consider it removes all incentive for insurance companies to expand networks. Instead what will happen is insurance company will select a few low-priced doctors to set their network rates, reduce the already small networks and, with the help of the government, force all other providers to take that artificially low rate. Networks will shrink, providers will go out of business and rural Wisconsin--where insurance companies already refuse to negotiate with providers--will see an even greater shortage of health care options.

We should address surprise billing and bring everyone to the table to figure out a solution, but the insurance lobby gimmick called “benchmarking” is not the solution.

ALICE DOSE

Janesville

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