With Congress taking up the issue of surprise medical bills, I hope our leaders in Washington will hold insurance companies accountable for their role in this problem. Often, patients get unexpected bills because insurers refuse to reimburse out of network hospitals or doctors for emergency care — like an ER visit — where patients may not have the flexibility to find an in- network provider. When insurance companies refuse to reimburse those expenses, patients are left with the tab.

Insurance companies understand how to maximize their profits, so proposals that regulate how much providers can charge insurance companies won’t work. Insurance networks will simply get smaller, and doctors will go out of business, making important (and sometimes life-saving) medical care less available.

Third party arbitration, in which an independent expert resolves billing disputes between doctors and insurers, is a much better alternative. Arbitration protects patients and removes them from the process. This system has already been proven to reduce surprise medical bills at the state level without driving up costs for patients.

Congress must create transparency regulations and billing resolution systems that hold insurance companies accountable — and leave the patients out of it.

— Louise Roebuck Cook, chair, Stephenson County Democratic Party