An omnibus package may include legislation that would end the practice of “surprise medical billing,” which is when a patient is unexpectedly treated by a doctor who does not take their insurance, after top lawmakers reached a bipartisan, bicameral agreement.
The current proposal would protect patients from surprise bills, and would require insurers and medical providers who cannot agree on a payment rate to use an outside arbitrator, who would determine a payment amount based partly on what other doctors and hospitals are typically paid for similar services.
Ms. Pelosi said in a statement Friday night that the House planned to push for the legislation to be included in a final spending package.
But on the matter of providing additional pandemic relief, the two policy divides that have long impaired a deal — Republicans’ insistence on sweeping coronavirus liability protections and Democrats’ demands to provide an infusion of federal funds of states and cities facing fiscal crises — remain sticking points.
Democrats and some Republicans have argued that providing another round of relief for cash-short state and local governments is critical to avoid laying off city workers. But many Republicans have derided the proposal as a so-called blue-state bailout that could be used to close pre-existing budget shortfalls that were a result of mismanagement, not the economic fallout from the pandemic. Democrats have likewise warned that a sweeping liability shield prioritized by Republicans is a nonstarter, arguing that there has not been a surge in lawsuits related to the pandemic, and offering blanket protections against such suits would serve only to weaken worker protections.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has suggested jettisoning both provisions to get a swift agreement on a narrower package that would include funding vaccine distribution and the Paycheck Protection Program, a popular loan program for small businesses. But some lawmakers are reluctant to resort to that, citing the urgency of addressing the toll of the pandemic.
“These problems don’t go away,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, who is part of the group that is working on a bipartisan $908 billion compromise framework. “If anything, they just get bigger. So if we can just stick to it, get a proposal that we can advance that resolves not only goals like unemployment, P.P.P., food security, but also the state and local and tribal and the liability issue — this is what we’ve been working on. This is what we need to keep doing.”