An open letter to Congress on surprise medical billing

By Physicians of Tennessee

October 3, 2019

Physicians of Tennessee write an impassioned letter, calling for change regarding the current legislation surrounding surprise medical billing.

Dear Members of the Tennessee Congressional Delegation,

Tennessee’s medical community is increasingly concerned with the practice of surprise medical billing that impacts so many of our patients. It is time for Congress to enact federal legislation that will protect patients from the unwanted “surprise” that comes when they are stuck with a surprise bill for medical care they thought would be covered by their insurance company.

Unfortunately, some of the bills in Congress that attempt to solve this problem use a risky approach called benchmarking, which would enact a form of government rate-setting. It will allow the federal government to set arbitrary and likely lower-than-market rates paid to physicians would inevitably result in devastating financial losses for our vital emergency rooms and hospitals. This would be particularly devastating for rural health care and lead to higher rates of provider consolidation, threatening patient access and convenience, diminishing the quality of care, and increasing costs.

Rather than taking us down this road to substandard health care as Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is proposing, Congress should look to implement the Independent Dispute Resolution (IDR) outlined in other legislative solutions put forward in both the House by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN1) and also supported by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). In cases where disputed payments exceed $500, IDR would allow both insurers and providers to leverage a fair, open, and transparent negotiation process. Both parties would submit their best offers and final payment would be determined by an independent arbitrator.

IDR will both protect patients from surprise billing while ensuring the vital health care facilities serving our communities—particularly our rural, hard-to-reach ones—remain financially stable.

For patients in Tennessee and across the country, the IDR process will help preserve the quality of care, access, and convenience while benchmarking will only undermine all three. Any legislative solution Congress passes on this issue must include IDR in order to protect patients and enable physicians to continue providing the highest quality of care possible. We applaud Rep. Roe and Sen. Blackburn for their stance and encourage Sen. Alexander to also support an independent, fair, and equitable solution to ending surprise medical bills.


Chad Greene, MD

Murfreesboro Anesthesia

Murfreesboro, TN

James E. Thomas, MD

Physicians Radiological Group

Memphis, TN

Stefan J. Grenvik, MD

Bristol Anesthesia Services

Bristol, TN

Gill Thayer, MD

Hardin Medical Ctr.

Savannah, TN

Chris Young, MD

Erlanger Medical

Chattanooga, TN

Gary Kimzey, MD

Medical Anesthesia

Memphis, TN

David May, MC

Sycamore Anesthesia

Elizabethton, TN

Joseph M. Nounou, MD

Bristol Anesthesia

Bristol, TN

Joey Hensley, MD

Family Practic

Hohenwald, TN