Florida governor signs law limiting balance billing: 5 things to know

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has signed a bill banning surprise medical charges, according to a Palm Beach Post report.

Here are five things to know about the bill.

1. The bill, HB 221, puts new limits on balance billing, which has been a hot topic at both state and national levels.

The practice of balance billing refers to a physician's ability to bill the patient for an outstanding balance after the insurance company submits its portion of the bill. Out-of-network physicians, not bound by contractual, in-network rate agreements, may bill patients for the entire remaining balance.

Balance billing leaves patients with unanticipated medical bills that can have detrimental financial effects.

2. Under the bill, consumers cannot be charged more than the equivalent of in-network charges in emergencies and at other times where the patient has no real choice — such as an out-of-network anesthesiologist for a scheduled procedure at an in-network hospital, according to the report.

3. The bill exempts ambulance services, who have argued local taxes might have to rise if they could not charge out-of-network rates, the Palm Beach Post reported.

4. Florida CFO Jeff Atwater of North Palm Beach called the bill "an incredibly consumer-friendly piece of legislation" with "a balanced solution to the complex issue of medical billing."

5. However, some medical providers have expressed concerns about such a measure. "What we ended up with was the insurers, experiencing record profits already, getting handed the ability to unilaterally set physician payment rates," Jay Epstein, chairman of legislative affairs for the Florida Society of Anesthesiologists, said in March, according to the report. "What undoubtedly will result is the need for physicians to litigate what is bound to be dramatic underpayments."



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