CA Senate Appropriations Committee to Vote on Bill to End Surprise Medical Bills

Experts

Director, Special Projects
Media Relations Associate

Consumers Union Calls on Lawmakers to Stand Up for Consumers

Monday, August 8, 2016

SACRAMENTO, CA – As the California Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled today to take up legislation to protect Californians from surprise medical bills, Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports, urged lawmakers to stand up for consumers and support the bill. AB 72 (Bonta, Bonilla, Dahle, Gonzalez, Maienschein, and Wood) is bipartisan legislation that would protect consumers from surprise medical bills at in-network hospitals, labs, imaging centers and other health care facilities and ensure consumers are responsible for only their in-network cost sharing, putting an end to outrageous and unexpected out-of-network bills from doctors they did not choose.

Betsy Imholz, Special Projects Director for Consumers Union, said “Surprise medical bills can wreak financial havoc on families, even when they’ve done everything to ensure they use an in-network doctor at an in-network facility. After undergoing surgery or medical treatment, consumers shouldn’t suffer the second pain of having to deal with the crossfire between providers and insurers. AB 72 is a bipartisan, practical solution that closes the surprise medical bills loophole. We urge the Committee Members to stand up for consumers by voting ‘aye’ on AB 72.”

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. Surprise medical bills are spurred by balance billing, which occurs when a healthcare provider bills a patient for the difference between what that patient’s health insurance chooses to reimburse and what the provider charges.

The legislation would protect people like Steve Woodward of Thousand Oaks, CA. Following a planned back surgery in 2014, Steve received a $2700 bill from the anesthesiologist — even after being assured in advance by a company supervisor that the anesthesiologist company was in his insurance network.

Consumers Union has continued to press lawmakers, writing in a Sacramento Bee editorial, “It’s time to spare consumers who have done everything right from the reimbursement battle between insurance companies and out-of-network doctors….Industry groups have powerful lobbyists to speak up for them, but legislators should speak up for consumers and 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 urge lawmakers to support AB 72, share their surprise medical bill story, or use our Insurance Complaint Tool for California-specific assistance, resources and information.

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

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Contact: 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.