Surprise medical billing solutions offered

Congress has a chance to put an end to surprise medical bills this year, but there are two distinct ideas being put forward — one that assumes that bigger government solves everything and one based on proven, free-market principles.

First, the bad idea: U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has put forward a bill that proposes to end surprise billing by implementing government-mandated prices for services through a process called benchmarking. This idea would base rates for out-of-network care on the median in-network rate, benefiting insurance companies' bottom lines but harming providers and patients.

Providers are often out-of-network because they believe insurance companies are not offering them a fair rate for their services, and this legislation would effectively force them to accept these rates without recourse. Patients would lose out because insurance networks would likely become even smaller (After all, why even go through the process of negotiating a network agreement if you pay the same rate to out-of-network physicians?) and the lower rates would likely cause many rural providers to relocate to larger cities.

Fortunately, a bipartisan coalition led by Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., is pushing for a market-based solution to the issue — independent dispute resolution. This simple legislation embraces the power of negotiation to put an end to surprise billing, mandating that insured patients can no longer be billed for an amount beyond their co-pay or deductible and instead requiring insurers and providers to either negotiate a rate or accept the decision of an independent arbitrator, who will choose between best offers provided by both parties.

Cassidy's idea is a much better way to end surprise billing, and I hope that our congressional delegation will support this approach.

Jimmy Morris

Webb City

Public Works takes care of neighborhood

I commend the Joplin Public Works Department for quickly and efficiently replacing a streetlight in our neighborhood. It is the regular, everyday action of a city department that makes for a good quality of life for residents. Nothing fancy, just a reliable attention to detail is what matters.

Thank you and keep up the good work.

Linda C. Wheeler

Joplin

Lawmakers make Missouri a CAFO-ready state

Missouri's legislature has voted to make Missouri a CAFO-ready state, opening the doors to a stampede of corporate-backed confined animal feeding operations — many of them foreign-owned — to move freely into any county unprotected by a local health ordinance. Missouri Department of Natural Resources regulations do not adequately protect against Missouri’s now about 500 CAFOs. These operations have a track record of fouling the air and water, running down property values, and sickening and forcing neighbors off their land.

We have a clear picture of what happened in states such as Iowa and North Carolina that passed similar laws before:

• Ten thousand CAFOs now pollute Iowa’s air and waterways.

• CAFOs produce a much larger volume of untreated waste than comparable human populations.

• Pits designed to hold thousands of gallons of raw manure pose a significant risk of catastrophic overflow from heavy rains. When spills reach waterways, decomposition consumes dissolved oxygen, killing aquatic life. The historic rains that flooded millions of acres of Midwestern cropland this spring flushed vast amounts of fertilizer and manure into waterways, triggering a potentially massive season of algae blooms.

Since Hurricane Florence struck North Carolina last year, CAFO farmers face staggering financial losses and likely bankruptcies. Corporations have driven out many independent farmers, who now serve as contractors to industry giants such as Smithfield and Tyson. Farmers have little power in those contracts because the Trump administration’s U.S. Department of Agriculture removed protections against corporate exploitation.

Missouri SB 391 is on hold following a ruling by Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce. It temporarily protects a regulation passed by the Cooper County Health Board, limiting dangerous gas emissions and banning underground manure tanks on karst topography. Taney, Hickory, and Moniteau Counties are also considering local ordinances.

Please call your county commission and urge them to pass a local health ordinance to protect your county from the worst impacts of this new law.

CAFOs benefit industrial ag corporations at the expense of Missouri farms and towns.

Mollie Freebairn

Jefferson City

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