Consumers Union Story Sharer Becomes Face of Texas Fight to End Surprise Medical Bills

Danielle Blustein
Advocacy Intern

Friday, August 12th, 2016
Texas

Surprise medical bills in Texas isn’t a new problem, but Texas advocates have a new consumer ally in the fight: a Dallas patient and cancer survivor who shared his surprise medical bill story with Consumers Union, and was featured in the Texas Tribune earlier this week. Ed Hagan became the face of the patient in the growing debate on surprise medical bills in Texas.

Ed Hagan’s story shows how even consumers who carefully choose in-network hospitals and providers can still end up with a surprise medical bill. After back pain left him unable to go to work, Hagan checked himself into the emergency room, a hospital he knew was in-network. After many diagnostic tests, doctors told Hagan that he was suffering from kidney stones and a rare form of Leukemia. What the doctors didn’t tell Hagan was that although the hospital was in-network, the emergency room doctor and the anesthesiologist were not. After more than a year of intensive cancer treatment, Hagan is now in remission. But his hospital visit left him with two thousand dollars in surprise medical bills..

Hagan, and millions of other consumers, receive surprise medical bills because of the difference between what doctors charge for procedures and what insurance companies cover. When doctors and insurance companies can’t agree, the patient pays the price — a practice known as balance billing. These out of network costs can run 10 to almost 100 times more than Medicare’s rates, costing consumers hundreds to thousands of dollars.

When this happens, most consumers don’t know what to do.

“Most people don’t know to fight this stuff, or how to write a letter, or how to kick it back at them, saying, ‘You guys got a scam going,’” Hagan said. Texas lawmakers are examining the problem of surprise medical bills. In May, the Texas House Insurance committee held a hearing on balance billing to examine the implementation of SB 481, a law backed by Consumers Union and a coalition of Texas advocates intended to help consumers get relief from surprise medical bills. As Stacey Pogue from the Center for Public Policy Priorities explained, “SB 481 was an important step in the right direction, allowing more Texas consumers to challenge surprise medical bills. But the work to fully protect consumers is not done.”

While lawmakers debate on fixes to surprise medical bills, we need them to stand with consumers who have had to fight unfair bills, or who have few options for getting their bill reduced or paid.  Texans need real protections against surprise medical bills, so people like Ed Hagan can focus on their health, not on unexpected and expensive surprise medical bills.

Check out the Texas Tribune article here and share with your networks! If you have ever been hit with a surprise medical bill, share your story and join our End Surprise Medical Bills movement to win consumer protections. Check out our Insurance Complaint Tool for state-based resources on fighting your bill.

 

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