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

Congresswoman’s bill would bar health insurers from reducing coverage during a pandemic

WASHINGTON—Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA) today reintroduced legislation that would protect patients from reductions in insurance coverage during public health emergencies. The Patients Before Profits Act, co-led by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), would prevent insurers from renegotiating contracts or decreasing reimbursement rates for doctors and other health care workers while a pandemic is ongoing.

“Profits should never come before public health, especially during a pandemic,” said Congresswoman Porter. “Despite sky-high earnings, some of the largest health insurers in the country slashed reimbursement rates and booted doctors from their networks—in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. My Patients Before Profits Act would better protect families, both now and during future public health emergencies, from this corporate greed.”

In 2020, doctors urged UnitedHealth Group, the largest health insurance company in the United States, to delay their removal from UnitedHealth’s network given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The insurance giant refused, prompting Porter to demand answers from the company directly on behalf of patients and health care providers across the country.

“It is unsurprising that large insurance companies had the audacity to kick doctors from their networks and cut reimbursements during the pandemic, ultimately putting our constituents and their health at risk,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “Having fought Medicare Advantage organizations on this for years, I know firsthand that, unfortunately, this is not a new phenomenon. It is imperative that at a minimum we protect patients during a public health emergency, especially when many have delayed care due to COVID or are now COVID long-haulers facing greater health needs. I am proud to work with my colleagues on this critical effort.”

“The last thing families should have to worry about during a public health emergency is an insurance company reducing their health coverage,” said Congresswoman Tlaib. “No insurance company should be allowed to take away coverage. I’m proud to join Congresswomen Porter and DeLauro in introducing this critical piece of legislation that will protect families and ensure that our health care system is putting people first.”

“Big Insurance has made record profits during the pandemic, in part by cutting reimbursement to many doctors and making patients pay more out of their own pockets,” said Wendell Potter, a leading insurance reform advocate. “Rep. Porter’s bill will make it illegal for insurers to shortchange doctors to reward shareholders.”

Porter has fought to bring accountability and change to our broken health care system throughout her time in Congress, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has exposed corruption in the dialysis industry, confronted Big Pharma CEOs directly about the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs, and spearheaded bipartisan legislation to protect new parents from surprise medical bills. In March 2020, Porter secured a commitment from the former CDC Director that the Trump Administration would make coronavirus testing free for all Americans, and she’s continuing to follow up with the Biden Administration to make this commitment a reality.