surprise medical bills

Kansans remain among the most vulnerable in the country to surprise medical bills — charges from outside an insurance network that the consumer only discovers after treatment.

A new research brief from the Kansas Health Institute points to studies suggesting the charges are common in Kansas. It’s part of a shrinking minority of states yet to pass laws reining in the practice.

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There has been a huge drop in the number of Texans calling state regulators over surprise medical bills in the past six months.

A new law went into effect at the beginning of the year requiring medical providers and insurance companies to figure out payment disputes themselves – instead of sending bills to patients.

 

TOPEKA, Kansas — A flurry of proposals in the Kansas Statehouse this session take aim at rising medical costs, including one that may be the state’s first attempt to rein in “surprise bills.”

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On the last Tuesday of July, Tres Biggs stepped into the courthouse in Coffeyville, Kansas, for medical debt collection day, a monthly ritual in this quiet city of 9,000, just over the Oklahoma border. He was one of 90 people who had been summoned, sued by the local hospital, or doctors, or an ambulance service over unpaid bills. Some wore eye patches and bandages; others limped to their seats by the wood-paneled walls. Biggs, who is 41, had to take a day off from work to be there. He knew from experience that if he didn’t show up, he could be put in jail.

It appears Texas will get one of the strongest laws in the nation against surprise medical bills after all.

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed legislation to protect people in state-regulated health plans from getting outrageous bills for out-of-network care.

After months of hearings and negotiations, millions of dollars in attack ads, full-court-press lobbying efforts and countless rounds of negotiations, Congress appears to be moving toward a solution to the nation's surprise medical bill problem. Sort of.

Surprise bills, the often-exorbitant medical bills that come when patients don't realize they've been seen by a provider outside their insurance network, have in recent months been viewed as public enemy No. 1 on Capitol Hill.

Surprise Medical Bills Hit Many Oklahomans

Oct 30, 2019

Unexpected out-of-network medical bills can throw patients into thousands of dollars of debt, especially in Oklahoma. Medical and insurance groups agree something needs to be done to protect patients, but they can’t agree on the details.

Updated 4:03 p.m.

President Trump signed an executive order Monday on price transparency in health care that aims to lower rising health care costs by showing prices to patients. The idea is that if people can shop around, market forces may drive down costs.

"Hospitals will be required to publish prices that reflect what people pay for services," said President Trump at a White House event. "You will get great pricing. Prices will come down by numbers that you wouldn't believe. The cost of healthcare will go way, way down."

Texans who get their health insurance from a large employer are more likely to get a surprise bill in an emergency compared to people with similar plans in other states, according to research published Thursday.

Surprise medical bills — those unexpected and often pricey bills patients face when they get care from a doctor or hospital that isn't in their insurance network — are the health care problem du jour in Washington, with President Trump and congressional lawmakers from both sides of the aisle calling for action.

A surprise medical bill may be a thing of the past for many Texans. In a unanimous vote, the Texas House approved a Senate bill banning health care providers from sending steep medical bills to insured Texans in emergencies.

Colorado lawmakers passed a bipartisan bill giving patients more protection from a practice called “surprise medical billing,” or “balance billing.” Now, it’s headed to the governor’s desk.

A bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers announced plans this week to address surprise medical bills in a way they believe would ease the burden on patients in the state.