Legislation would protect patients from surprise medical billing and raise the tobacco sales age to 21, but falls well short on flavored tobacco products

News Release, American Heart Association

Washington, D.C., December 10, 2019­ — The American Heart Association, the world’s leading voluntary organization focused on heart and brain health, released the following statement about the Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019:

“The American Heart Association is pleased with several provisions of this bipartisan and bicameral legislation, which includes strong language to prevent surprise medical billing and a thorough proposal to raise the tobacco sales age to 21. However, the bill’s lack of attention to flavored tobacco products that are addicting youth to nicotine is cause for concern.

“We are particularly pleased with robust language addressing the growing issue of surprise medical billing in our country. More than 57 percent of Americans have received a surprise bill that they thought would be paid for by their insurance.Recent datafrom the Kaiser Family Foundation show that heart attack patients may be at greater risk of receiving a surprise medical bill, with the incidence of out-of-network charges being 50 percent higher. This legislation holds patients and consumers harmless, allowing them to focus on their course of treatment and recovery – instead of their ability to pay – during a medical event. Additionally, this legislation ensures that patients will not be balance billed for financially devastating air ambulance rides, a provision we have strongly advocated for.

“We also support Congressional negotiators’ inclusion of language to raise the tobacco sales age to 21. However, we are disappointed the bill does not address flavored tobacco products. With the youth vaping epidemic growing, we must take a comprehensive approach that includes both a prohibition on all flavored tobacco products in addition to raising the age of sale to 21. This legislation also leaves out other provisions that would have a meaningful impact on reversing this epidemic, including halting the online sales of all tobacco products and codifying the deadline of May 2020 for premarket tobacco application submissions.

“The affordability of health care continues to be a barrier to treatment and services for millions of Americans. We look forward to continuing to work with Congressional leadership to reduce costs, improve protections for patients, strengthen our public health system and develop meaningful transparency tools.”

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...