ATLANTA (February 4, 2020) | Today, Senator Chuck Hufstetler (R – Rome) and Representative Lee Hawkins (R – Gainesville) introduced identical legislation aimed at eliminating balance or surprise billing for many healthcare services. Senate Bill 359 and House Bill 888, both known as the Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act, aim to take patients out of the middle of billing disputes between providers and insurers.
“Many Georgians are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy because of unexpected medical bills. They went to an in-network facility but were seen by an out-of-network provider and ended up with a surprise medical bill,” said Hawkins.
“We’re going to finally take the consumer out of the middle of this issue and leave it between the healthcare provider and the insurer to resolve,” Hufstetler said.
Clark Howard, the consumer advocate and money expert, agreed this legislation is much needed. “We need to end the cruelty of surprise medical bills as has already happened in many other states. A consumer who has done all the right things by pre-certifying should never be ripped off with bill shock after the fact,” Howard said.
House Rules Committee Chairman Richard Smith, (R-Columbus), who previously was Chairman of the House Insurance Committee, along with Sen. Hufstetler, have been working to advance legislation to address this issue in recent years. This year, the likelihood of a bill becoming law is much greater as Governor Brian Kemp has placed his strong support behind passing legislation to reduce surprise medical billing. “This legislation will implement some long-needed reforms. I look forward to working with the Governor’s office and my colleagues in the General Assembly to see that this bill becomes law,” Smith said.
Advocates at Georgia Watch and Georgians for a Healthy Future support the legislation and say it will go a long way toward increasing transparency and taking patients out of the disputes between insurance companies and healthcare providers.
“We’ve heard again and again from Georgians that medical debt, due to surprise bills, is one of the main reasons driving them into bankruptcy. We believe patients should be protected from these egregious bills,” said Liz Coyle of Georgia Watch, a consumer advocacy organization that has persistently advocated for legislation to reduce surprise billing.
“Georgians should not be expected to pay out-of-pocket to settle disputes between the provider and the insurer. If it passes, the Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act will finally take patients out of the middle,” said Laura Colbert of the healthcare consumer advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future.
The Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act would ensure that patients are “held harmless” in billing disputes between insurers and providers and would require patients to give consent first before receiving out-of-network services. The bill also would enable insurers and providers to settle any disputes through a resolution process. The bill covers an array of healthcare products and providers, including hospital or ambulatory care facilities.
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