Texas Hospitals Support Protecting Consumers From Unexpected Bills and Increased Health Care Costs
(AUSTIN, Texas – April 25, 2019) At least three-quarters of Americans believe the government should take action to protect patients from surprise medical bills, according to a new national poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
With legislation moving through the Texas Legislature to solve the problem of surprise medical bills for emergency or unplanned out-of-network health care services, Texas is positioned to be a national leader on consumer protection. Yet, current proposals could undermine that protection by increasing health care costs for everyone because of the requirement for health plans and health care facilities to participate in binding arbitration to settle on a payment amount.
“Texas hospitals have consistently supported protecting patients from surprise medical bills for out-of-network health care services,” said Ted Shaw, THA president/CEO. “Receiving an unexpected bill, and the shock, distress and anxiety that it can cause undermine a patient’s recovery and road back to good health.”
Under current state law, a patient who receives a bill for out-of-network health care services can initiate mediation with the Texas Department of Insurance. Proposed legislation would eliminate the patient’s responsibility. Texas hospitals support that proposal but not the proposal to replace mediation with binding arbitration for health plans and health care facilities.
Requiring arbitration could increase health care costs for everyone with health insurance. The costs of arbitration to the state’s largest health care programs alone -- the Employee Retirement System and Teacher Retirement System -- were estimated to be $14.7 million and $60.5 million, respectively.
“Lawmakers should protect patients by prohibiting surprise billing,” said Shaw. “They should also take care not to unintentionally create new problems by driving up health care costs. At a time when annual increases in health care premiums are in the double digits and outpace inflation and wage growth, lawmakers should not impose additional costs on consumers.”
More information on THA’s advocacy to identify a patient-friendly solution to surprise billing is available
here. More information on the Kaiser Family Foundation poll is available here.