The legislation in Congress for surprise medical billing has the potential to improve our health care system, but not if it includes benchmark rates. Although the proposed benchmark rate law might lower current out-of-pocket costs for patients, it will have unintended consequences for local patients and providers.
I approach the surprise medical billing problem as a licensed clinical social worker. My clinic, the Firefly Institute, specializes in trauma-informed care and addressing adverse childhood experiences.
Benchmarking would require my clinic to use insurers' rates when a patient receives out-of-network care. This affects our ability to contract with insurers because benchmarking is a take-it-or-leave-it scenario. Even if we turn down the insurers' rates, we cannot earn more than insurers' rates as out-of-network providers.
This unfair negotiating table will force more providers to deliver services out of network. Patients will lose the ability to see whichever doctors and specialists they like and trust. For rural patients, the search for an in-network provider will become even harder.
Many patients currently drive an hour or more from rural areas to receive specialized services at my clinic. They would not be able to obtain these services closer to home. I worry about the prospect of fewer in-network providers for these patients who already travel so far.
Health insurance is important. It helps patients manage care. Congress should ensure fair negotiations between insurers and health care providers so that patients have fewer surprise bills and sufficient networks for care.
President, National Association of Social Workers Oregon Chapter
Time is now to address climate chaos
Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists are convinced by evidence that human-caused global warming is real. Major organizations of physicists, chemists, meteorologists and astronomers agree. We are in a climate crisis.
When we began burning coal, oil and gas faster and faster, carbon dioxide levels exceeded the natural level. Normal variances of weather have become supercharged with more extremes.
We have all witnessed, or heard of, more severe hurricanes, heat waves, droughts, massive downpours, fires and extreme snowfall. Supercharging our weather also affects our economy. It costs us billions of dollars.
As we begin 2020, I am hopeful that knowledge will turn into action. I encourage more citizens to become involved in combating climate change. We must move from helplessness to action.
There is something that everyone can do from decreasing your own individual carbon footprint to writing your congressional and city representatives. The time is now.
Right now there is bipartisan and effective legislation called the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, HR 763. This act places a fee on carbon from fossil fuel companies and gives a dividend to every American household.
What a positive effect on our well-being when we can avoid climate change costs and reap health benefits because of decreased pollution. A carbon fee and dividend plan actually would increase job growth.
Every day more people agree that climate change is real, and placing a price on carbon is an effective way to deal with it. As we begin this new year, let's think about what each of us can do to help combat this enormous challenge. Let's show that we care not only about our current climate, but we care about the climate we leave for our children and future generations.
Make climate a priority for 2020!
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