NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Governor Greg Abbott is expected sign into law a bill that eliminates surprise medical bills from landing in the mailboxes of Texas patients.

Gov. Abbott tweeted “It’s Gonna Happen! ” after the legislation passed unanimously in the House. The measure also passed in the Senate back in April.

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Senate Bill 1264 protects patients from out-of-network charges when a patient goes to an in-network hospital. In these cases, patients will only be responsible for in-network rates such as co-pays and deductibles.

For years, Texas patients have been devastated by these surprise out-of-network charges.

After her knee surgery, Susan Howell of North Richlands Hills was expecting her insurance would pick up most of the cost.

“I made sure they were in network – the doctor and the surgery center,” Howell said.

However, unbeknownst to Howell, the physician assistant who helped with her surgery was out-of-network. Her insurance would not cover the physician assistant’s charges so Howell was stuck with the bill.

“I was expecting my cost would be around $2,000,” she explained. “It was $33,107. I was stressed and thought this couldn’t be real.”

The new law will leave out-of-network disputes to be handled by insurers and health care providers.

“The biggest thing it does is it brings everyone in and it takes the patient out of the process,” said Sen. Kelly Hancock, the Republican from North Richland Hills who authored SB 1264.

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However, the new law will not protect all Texans from these unwanted bills.

The new state law, that goes effect January 1, 2020, only applies to patients with state-regulated insurance plans.

Less than one in five Texans have state-regulated plans, according to Texas Department of Insurance (TDI).

“We can only do so much,” said Hancock. “We need the federal government to step up.”

Bipartisan legislation is in the works at the federal level that would do away with surprise medical bills for everyone.

President Trump has publicly called out lawmakers to get something passed.

To figure out whether you have a self-regulated health plan, you can look for TDI on your insurance card, contact your human resource department, or call TDI (1-800-252-3439).


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