California lawmakers advance surprise-billing legislation

The California legislature's health committee has advanced a measure to stop surprise medical bills, according to a Public News Service report.

Assembly Bill 1611 aims to stop patients from receiving unexpected out-of-network bills after visiting a hospital emergency room.

Under the bill, patients would only be responsible for their copays and deductibles, even at a facility that is not in their insurance company’s network, according to the report. There also would be a limit on out-of-network charges.

The bill comes after input from patient Nicki Pogue, who visited the emergency room at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital with bronchitis and ended up with a large bill.

"When you are suffering from life-threatening symptoms, the last thing you should be thinking about is whether or not your hospital is considered in-network," Ms. Pogue is quoted as saying in the report. "To receive a bill for $13,000 — that I was responsible for $10,000 of — was stunning."

Zuckerberg hospital recently updated its billing practices after making headlines about  its policies. The hospital no longer bills patients the difference between what their insurer decides to pay and the amount the hospital determines its care is worth, a practice known as balance billing.


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