Emergency Care; Speaking at a press event last spring in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, President Donald Trump vowed to tackle a problem that plagues emergency-room patients across the United States: surprise medical bills. In emergency care situations, patients never have to bear the burden of out-of-network costs they didn’t agree to pay, Trump said, standing beside individuals who, despite being insured, were slam with steep medical bills after receiving emergency care.
The president urged Congress to pass legislation to protect patients from unexpected costs. Bipartisan groups in both the House and Senate were already working on multiple proposals to address the issue. At least four bills are under consideration. In late June, a Senate committee overwhelmingly approve; so measure cosponsored by Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) that would seek to address surprise billing.
Emergency Care Patients
Research by Yale economists Zack Cooper and Fiona Scott Morton; so is driving this burst of bipartisan legislating. The economists’ work expose the scale of out-of-network billing in emergency departments, explain why it happens, and test a potential policy solution. Their findings drew detail coverage from The New York Times and other major media outlets and attract the attention of state and federal lawmakers.
They analyzed billing data from a large commercial insurer covering 2.2 million emergency room visits across the United States, finding that more than one in five patients who went to emergency departments within their health-insurance networks were treat by an out-of-network doctor and potentially incurred substantial, unexpected expenses. It was the first national estimate of the frequency of “surprise” out-of-network medical billing.
The research also resonate with the public. Half of people survey in an April Kaiser Family Foundation poll believe that Congress ought to make protecting patients from surprise medical bills a top priority. “Fiona and Zack are unusual in that there aren’t that many people who are excellent researchers, excellent communicators, and policy entrepreneurs all wrapped in one package,” Berry said.
Diversify the profession
The center is also building infrastructure, including funding and computing resources; so to facilitate policy-relevant economic research; which often involves accessing and analyzing massive public and private datasets. “We want to reduce the cost of doing this kind of research,” Berry said. Along with the Department of Economics; so the Tobin Center launched a pre-doctoral research assistant program that provides recent college graduates; so the opportunity to work with faculty on research projects.
“The research assistants really are the backbone of this research,” Cooper said. “They do the computer programming essential to the work. The program also allows us to train the next generation of scholars; also offer a new pipeline to get more people into the economics and diversify the profession.” Additionally, the center will bring policymakers; also policy experts to campus to inform researchers’ work and consult with them on how it can best impact the real world.
The fact that Yale-generated research on medical billing has spark cooperation; hence across political aisle underscores why supporting rigorous academic research on policy issues is so important, Berry noted. “If you have enough research consensus on something; also it is an important enough issue that really affects people’s lives; hence maybe it is possible to build bipartisan support for some things in the present atmosphere,” he said.