President Donald Trump announced ongoing bipartisan efforts in Congress to tackle surprise medical billing, during an event at the White House on Thursday.
The event highlighted personal stories – including that of Drew Calver, who received a six-figure hospital bill after a heart attack.
The Austin High teacher lives in Central Austin with his wife and two young daughters. About two years ago, he had a heart attack known as a “widow-maker” and was rushed to the nearest hospital.
“Although I had insurance, I was still billed $110,000,” Calver said Thursday. “The hospital threatened to send my bill to collections.”
As part of the Bill of the Month series, Calver told NPR, KUT and Kaiser Health News last year that he tried to settle the matter with the hospital, but his efforts were unsuccessful.
Even though Calver had health insurance, the hospital he received care from was out-of-network. As a result, he had fallen victim to a form of surprise billing that stems from an insurer and medical provider not agreeing on a reasonable price for services.
Calver was stuck with the bill.
"I feel like I was exploited at my most vulnerable time in my life having just suffered a heart attack,” he said during the White House event.
After his story aired on NPR, the hospital lowered his bill to about $330. At the time, Calver said Americans shouldn’t be put in the position in the first place.
“I hope that Congress hears this call to take action,” he said Thursday.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, has been introducing legislation for the past four years aimed at removing consumers from the middle of disputes between insurance companies and medical providers.
Trump’s event is a sign there is finally some bipartisan support on the issue, Doggett said, but there are still “obstacles.”
“There is also bipartisan resistance to taking on either the insurance industry or the health care providers,” he said.
Doggett also said he’s disappointed things are moving so slowly. Trump first announced his interest in tackling medical billing months ago.
“President Trump has been there for more than two years and has never done anything to get surprise medical billing legislation passed," he said. "He hasn’t gotten behind meaningful legislation on that.”
Lawmakers told Trump on Thursday they believe they will have legislation ready by July.