Wednesday, June 29, 2016
SACRAMENTO, CA – Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, today called on California Senators to support legislation to protect consumers from surprise medical bills at in-network hospitals, labs, imaging centers and other health care facilities. AB 72 (Bonta, Bonilla, Dahle, Gonzalez, Maienschein, and Wood), being considered today at a California Senate Health Committee hearing, is a bipartisan bill that would ensure consumers are responsible for only their in-network cost sharing and would stop getting outrageous and unexpected out-of-network bills from doctors they did not choose. 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.
“Balance billing is an elaborate form of ‘gotcha’ for many seeking medical care. It makes a mockery of the good intentions of consumers who do their research and try to stay inside the network for insurance purposes. Hundreds of California consumers who did all their homework to ensure they use an in-network doctor at an in-network facility have told us they have been shocked to receive a surprise bill from a provider they didn’t anticipate seeing or may have never even met,” said Betsy Imholz, Special Projects Director for Consumers Union. “Surprise medical bills have serious consequences for consumers’ financial health. We urge California lawmakers to support AB 72 and close this loophole that puts consumers in the middle of a reimbursement battle between insurance providers and out-of-network doctors.”
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.
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.
Consumers Union is working in several states, including California and New Jersey, to enact legislation to strengthen protections against surprise medical bills. The group was a strong proponent of a law recently passed in Florida to ban balance billing and strengthen consumer protections.
PLEASE NOTE: Consumers Union can connect reporters with Californians who have received surprise medical bills. For more information, contact Kara Kelber at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.