FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.
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(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.
Founded in 1930, the Texas Hospital Association is the leadership organization and principal advocate for the state’s hospitals and health care systems. Based in Austin, THA enhances its members’ abilities to improve accessibility, quality and cost-effectiveness of health care for all Texans. One of the largest hospital associations in the country, THA represents 452 of the state’s non-federal general and specialty hospitals and health care systems, which employ some 400,000 health care professionals statewide. Learn more about THA at www.tha.org or follow THA on Twitter at http://twitter.com/texashospitals.