Support ‘surprise billing’ legislation

Georgia Watch supports the passage of legislation that takes patients out of the middle and reduces surprise medical bills.

Current legislation: This year, legislators introduced twin bills known as the Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act. Introduced by Senator Chuck Hufstetler (R – Rome), Senate Bill 359 is aimed at eliminating surprise billing for many healthcare services. On February 24, SB 359 passed unanimously in the Senate and moved to the House for consideration. The bill is currently in the House Special Committee On Access to Quality Health Care. House Bill 888, introduced by Representative Lee Hawkins (R – Gainesville), passed the House on March 3 and is now in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee unanimously passed HB 888 in a rare Sunday session on June 14, making way for the bill to go to the Senate floor.

On June 17, the Georgia Senate unanimously approved House Bill 888, bringing Georgia one step away from ending burdensome surprise medical bills. With the passage of HB 888 in the Senate, the Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act now heads to Governor Kemp’s desk for his signature. 

After years of steadfast advocacy to protect consumers from surprise medical bills, we expect that by January 1, 2021 Georgians will be taken out of the middle of disputes between providers and insurers.

What are surprise medical bills?

Surprise medical bills occur when an insured patient encounters out-of-network providers at an in-network facility during the course of care. A few weeks later, the patient receives a bill from the provider for the portion of the charges not covered by the insurer. This process, called balance or surprise billing, can leave the patient stuck with an exorbitant bill.

We believe patients should be protected from these egregious bills. Georgians should not be expected to pay out-of-pocket to settle disputes between the provider and the insurer. For this reason, we support legislation that takes patients out of the middle of these disputes.

Specifically, we support legislation that protects Georgians from surprise medical bills by:

  • Ensuring that patients are “held harmless” in billing disputes between insurance companies and providers;
  • Requiring patients to give consent first before receiving out-of-network services;
  • Enabling insurers and providers to settle any disputes through a resolution process.

Additional Resources:

Georgia Legislature Passes Legislation to End Surprise Medical Bills

Protect Consumers from Surprise Medical Billing

Press Release: Sen. Hufstetler and Rep. Hawkins Introduces Companion Bills to End Surprise Billing

Many families surprised with out-of-network ER bills

How a family learned the pain of surprise billing

Family gets relief on surprise bill; legislation advances to help others

Georgia House Committee Passes Surprise Billing Measure

If you have a surprise billing story, please share that with us here.