Consumers Union

Policy and Mobilization Arm of Consumer Reports

Friday, September 23, 2016

Consumers Union Lauds California Law Protecting Millions from Surprise Medical Bills

SACRAMENTO, CA – California Governor Jerry Brown today signed  landmark legislation that will protect millions of Californians from surprise medical bills. AB 72 (Bonta, Bonilla, Dahle, Gonzalez, Maienschein, Santiago and Wood) will help prevent balance billing — when consumers are billed for the difference between what the provider charges and the insurer covers — and ensure consumers are responsible for only their in-network cost sharing.

Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports, lauded the law as a major success in the national effort to stop unexpected out-of-network bills. Nearly one in four privately insured Californians received a surprise medical bill where their health plan paid less than expected in the past two years, according to a 2015 survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. Among those respondents, again nearly one in four were charged at an out-of-network rate when they thought a provider was in-network.

Betsy Imholz, Special Projects Director for Consumers Union, said “This is a big win for Californians who have been left with the financial scars from a battle that’s really between insurers and providers. This law will ensure that consumers who make every effort to stay within their insurance network won’t be blindsided by a bill from a provider that they may not have chosen, or even met. Consumers Union has heard hundreds of stories of surprise medical bill nightmares from Californians — and more from consumers across the country — and we’re encouraged to see lawmakers find comprehensive, bipartisan solutions after years of research into the issue. We urge lawmakers in states across the country to follow the lead of states like California and Florida to put an end to surprise medical bills.”

After hearing from thousands of consumers nationwide who were hit with surprise medical bills, Consumers Union launched the End Surprise Medical Bills campaign to help put an end to these unfair bills for good. Consumers can visit EndSurpriseMedicalBills.org to share their surprise medical bill story and use our Insurance Complaint Tool for California-specific assistance, resources and information.

Consumers Union has been a leader in efforts around the country to enact legislation to strengthen protections against surprise medical bills. The group was a strong proponent of a laws enacted over the past two years to ban balance billing and strengthen consumer protections.

PLEASE NOTE: Consumers Union can connect reporters with consumers who have received surprise medical bills. For more information, contact Kara Kelber atkara.kelber@consumer.org.

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Contact:  David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org or Kara Kelber, kara.kelber@consumer.org,202-462-6262

Consumers Union is the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports.  Consumers Union works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace. Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization.  Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually.  Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications.