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Proposed law would end surprise ER bills

Posted: 7:12 PM, Mar 25, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-25 22:35:58-04

A trip to the emergency room can cost you thousands of dollars more than you expected.

Now, a few California lawmakers are working to put an end to surprise ER bills.

Even if a patient pays for private insurance, an ambulance might transport him or her to a hospital not covered under a patient’s insurance plan. In that case, the patient could end up with a lot of financial pain.

AB 1611 would prevent California hospitals from charging ER patients outside their regular co-pay or deductible even if the hospital is out-of-network.

One local health insurance broker says billing companies stick to the contracts.

“I think billing companies have discovered that by billing extra, they get extra payments, so if there is a way to put more teeth into that, that would be great,” said Susan Polk, a health insurance broker in San Luis Obispo.

San Francisco Assemblyman David Chui and State Senator Scott Weiner introduced the bill to combat the practice known as balance billing.

Polk says if passed, the bill could save Californians a lot of money.

“Going to the emergency room is an emotional experience in itself and then when you get a bill that you are not expecting, that compounds your angst and so I think this will be helpful to people,” Polk said.

Jan Emerson-Shea, a spokesperson for the California Hospital Association, told KSBY, “We are still working through the bill itself, but the CHA agrees that patients should be taken out of the middle of billing disputes between hospitals and insurance agencies.”

The state is funding $6.5 million of the bill.

The bill still needs to go to Committee for review.

According to the text of the bill, if passed, it would take effect next year and would apply to health care plans or policies issued, changed or renewed on or after January 1, 2020.