DENVER – Today’s introduction of a proposal to rein in “surprise” out-of-network medical bills shows that there’s hope for bipartisanship yet. The state’s leading advocate for health care consumers, the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative (CCHI), supports the legislation that protects consumers and controls exorbitant charges.
Surprise out-of-network bills arise when consumers seek health care at an in-network facility but are unknowingly seen by an out-of-network provider or are treated at an out-of-network facility or provider in an emergency.
Today, Representatives Daneya Esgar (D) and Marc Catlin (R) and Senators Bob Gardner (R) and Brittany Pettersen (D) introduced legislation to end the practice of balance billing, control exorbitant costs, and protect Coloradans from unnecessarily high bills.
Under current law, Coloradans with insurance plans regulated at the state level are to be held harmless and pay only what they would owe for in-network care when they are unknowingly treated by an out-of-network provider. However, consumers often end up paying these sky-high medical bills. These out-of-network charges also drive up health insurance premiums because there’s no limit to what hospitals and doctors can charge insurers in an emergency when they are out-of-network.
“Nearly two years after a harrowing experience when my 3-year-old suffered a fractured femur, I was startled out of sleep at 6:30 am to be told I was being sent to collections.” said Zoe Williams from Denver. “I found out that the emergency room bills hadn’t been paid because the hospital had categorized them as non-emergency and they were treated as out-of-network by my insurer. We had over $15,000 from unpaid “balance bills” sitting in collections, though I had never been notified. Consumers deserve to be protected from this confusing, terrifying world of surprise out-of-network medical bills and I hope this bipartisan bill will get the support it deserves.”
“These often predatory practices are wrong and must be stopped. This legislation will protect consumers and rein in these unexpected and egregiously high bills,” said Adam Fox, Director of Strategic Engagement of CCHI. “Right now, consumers are vulnerable to charges they may not be responsible to pay, can be sent to collections, and often pay much more than they actually owe. It’s time to protect consumers, arm them with information about their rights, and put a stop to this driver of health care costs.”
Colorado Consumer Health Initiative is a nonpartisan, nonprofit group that represents 45+ Colorado health organizations with more than 500,000 health care consumer members advocating for high-quality, affordable and equitable health care. In 2018, CCHI received the “Get Wise” Consumer Protection award from the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA).