1 of 4 | Speaking in the East Room of the White House on Friday, President Joe Biden announced a series of new executive actions that seek to rein in surprise billing by health insurers, and he announced an initiative to fight junk fees and other hidden fees in health care that Americans face. Photo by Samuel Corum/UPI | License Photo
July 7 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden announced a series of new executive actions Friday that seek to rein in surprise billing by health insurers, diminish medical debt and eliminate hidden fees that continue to squeeze consumers.
Biden said that the new policies would seek to crack down on scam insurance policies and ambush medical bills that affect millions of Americans every month while flouting federal consumer protections.
New proposed rules would also seek to close a federal loophole that has allowed companies to trick taxpayers into buying junk insurance products that provide little or no coverage, the White House said.
"In America, fairness is kind of something we expect," Biden said Friday while announcing the new policy. "And I don't know anybody who likes being viewed as having been played for a sucker or taken advantage of."
Biden's directive would require insurers to provide full disclosure about the limits of these short-term health insurance plans that "leave families surprised by thousands of dollars in medical expenses."
"Each year, those junk fees cost hundreds of dollars a month for tens of billion -- for tens of billions of dollars, weighing on -- down family budgets and making it harder for people to pay their bills," Biden said. "Junk fees may not matter to the very wealthy ... but they matter to working folks in homes like the ones I grew up in."
The president ticked of the different industries of which his administration has cracked down on in regards to junk fees: banking, hotels, concerts, tickets, airlines, cable, Internet -- and the Internet.
"And today," he said, "I'm pleased to announce that we're making some progress on healthcare."
The plan includes new steps to protect patients from dubious insurance products that have saddled consumers with unfair medical debt through a loophole in the Affordable Care Act.
"Not being able to take care of your family is one of the most consequential things that can happen to a person," Biden said.
Biden is also ordering various federal agencies to work together to investigate whether healthcare providers and other third parties have broken the law by encouraging consumers to sign up for junk insurance products.
The effort will also focus on medical credit cards and loans that often lead to higher costs without consumers fully understanding the risks, the White House said.
Biden is also calling for new limits on bank fees for bounced checks and account overdrafts, which would save consumers more than $5 billion a year.
Under the new rules, airlines would also be required to disclose all fees up front, and eliminate family seating fees. Biden also wants to weed out hidden junk fees for concert and sports tickets.
Meanwhile, the White House blamed the previous administration for ambiguous policies that have allowed insurance companies to refuse coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions.
Biden was seeking to close the loophole that has allowed insurers to take advantage of the "in-network" designation by claiming certain health facilities were technically "out-of-network" -- exposing patients to higher costs for hospital visits.
"The administration today is making clear this is not allowed under federal law," the White House said. "Healthcare services provided by these providers are either out-of-network and subject to the surprise billing protections, or they are in-network and subject to the ACA's annual limitation on cost-sharing, further protecting consumers from excessive out-of-pocket costs."
A report due out Friday from the Department of Health and Human Services is expected to show that nearly 19 million seniors and other Part D beneficiaries would save $400 per year on prescription drugs under Biden's $2,000 out-of-pocket cap.
Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released revised guidance as part of a plan to lower prescription drug prices for seniors beginning in September.
The $35 monthly cap on insulin for Medicare Part B beneficiaries also went into effect, helping 1.5 million diabetics save hundreds of dollars per month on the drug.