By Leif Murphy, President and CEO, TeamHealth
Ezekiel Emanuel’s September 4th opinion column in the Washington Post, erroneously assigns blame for surprise medical bills to medical provider groups such as TeamHealth, and misrepresents a Yale University research study to do so.
Emanuel’s accusation that surprise medical bills increase at TeamHealth-operated emergency rooms is patently false. TeamHealth ended the practice of balance billing years ago. When arbitrarily underpaid by an insurer, TeamHealth pursues legal action to force insurers to uphold their commitments to patients.
We never put the patient in the middle of a dispute. The Yale Study shows that TeamHealth is out-of-network for 13 percent of its encounters, and not that a balance bill is ever generated. It is a reflection of inadequate rates being offered for network participation and not a measure of surprise billing.
We fully support a ban on surprise medical bills and are actively working to reach an effective solution that protects patients and maintains their access to critical care.
Emanuel supports government rate-setting as the right approach in his column. Rate setting allows insurers to unilaterally determine the rate that should be paid to physicians, incenting them to cancel contracts and effectively drive down both in- and out-of-network rates.
This approach could be devastating for patients, potentially leading to hospital closures and doctor shortages while making it impossible for some patients – particularly in rural areas – to find emergency medical care.
About 75% of emergency room encounters are reimbursed at or below the government rate, which means they are reimbursed at a loss for providers. Without the assurance of reasonable commercial reimbursement, our ability to provide 24-hour emergency room care would disappear.
We agree that surprise medical billing must end, including onerous coinsurance and punitive deductibles, and must be done in a way that actually protects patients rather than driving down payments to physicians.
President and CEO
For more information on how TeamHealth is actively working to reach an effective solution that protects patients and maintains their access to critical care, visit our comprehensive resource https://www.teamhealthputspatientsfirst.com/.