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Rep. Porter Introduces Bill to Protect Patients During Public Health Emergencies

Congresswoman’s legislation would prevent insurance companies from reducing coverage during a pandemic

WASHINGTON—Congresswoman Katie Porter (CA-45) has introduced legislation with Representatives Rosa DeLauro (CT-3), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), and Jerrold Nadler (NY-10) to protect patients from reductions in coverage during public health emergencies. Porter’s Patients Before Profits Act would bar insurers from renegotiating contracts or decreasing reimbursement rates for doctors and other healthcare workers while a pandemic is ongoing.

“Fear of high medical costs cannot be a barrier to treatment or care for patients, and that is especially true during a pandemic,” Porter said. “Even in the middle of a public health emergency, we’ve seen major insurance companies continue to put their profits before the health of our communities. The last thing Orange County families need right now is surprise medical bills, which is why I’m standing up against these inappropriate changes in healthcare coverage.”

“You’d think it would be illegal for your health insurance company to suddenly alter or cut your plan in the middle of a public health emergency, but as I know first-hand, they’ve been doing this kind of thing for years, just to squeeze a few more bucks,” said Wendell Potter, a leading insurance reform advocate. “It is common for people to sign up for a health plan because their doctors and hospitals are in network but then find out those providers have been dropped. It’s well past time for this to be banned, and I’m so glad Rep. Porter and other members of Congress are leading the charge.”

Congresswoman Porter’s Patients Before Profits Act comes as insurance companies have created barriers to free testing and treatment, and even taken steps to reduce their provider networks. This week, she sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services demanding accountability for insurers who continue to bill patients for COVID-19 tests, three months after Congress passed legislation mandating that these tests be free. Last month, she wrote a letter to UnitedHealth raising concerns and calling for answers about the company’s decision to cut providers from its network during the pandemic.

A longtime commercial law professor and consumer protection advocate, Porter has made affordable insurance coverage and health industry oversight a top priority in Congress. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she has fought against private-equity firms trying to cut provider pay, exposed fraudulent medical supply companies, and demanded answers about taxpayer dollars spent on new drugs. At a Committee on Oversight and Reform Hearing in March, she secured a commitment from Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield to make testing free for every American. Prior to the pandemic, she secured protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions in the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act of 2019.