HealthState Could Do More to Protect Texans from Surprise...

State Could Do More to Protect Texans from Surprise Medical Bills

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Surprise medical expenses cost Americans millions of dollars every year, and two bills under consideration by the Texas Legislature could help alleviate the problem.

Blake Hutson, associate state director of advocacy and outreach for AARP Texas, said Senate Bill 999 would protect people who sometimes are required by medical providers to use an ambulance – only to later learn they owe thousands of dollars for what could have been a short ride across town.

“In Texas today, you can be forced to go from a hospital to another facility – like a rehab facility by ambulance – and then, you later learn that that ambulance was out of network and you get a big, surprise bill,” he said.

Last December, Congress passed a federal law banning surprise medical bills, but ambulances – which can have the highest out-of-network billing rate of any medical specialty – were excluded. One study found 71% of ambulance rides have the potential to generate a surprise bill, with an average cost to the patient of $450.

AARP Texas also is advocating for passage of Senate Bill 2038, which tentatively has been approved by the Texas Senate, to prevent price-gouging for certain health-related tests. Hutson said such practices became obvious during the pandemic, when people reported paying from $1,000 to $10,000 for a COVID test.

“Really, what these kinds of issues are symptomatic of is how health-care costs are sort of just on a complete runaway train in Texas,” he said. “Texas is sort of ground zero for some of the most egregious price-gouging that we see in health care.”

Hutson said the state already has laws to prevent hotels or gas stations from price-gouging during a hurricane or other natural disaster, but a medical crisis isn’t included. He said surprise medical bills not only happen to folks who are uninsured, but also to many who think they’re fully covered for emergencies, only to receive exorbitant bills while they’re recovering.

ambulance

Los gastos medicos sorpresa cuestan a los estadounidenses millones de dolares cada ano, y dos proyectos de ley que esta considerando la Legislatura de Texas podrian ayudar a aliviar el problema. Blake Hutson, de A-A-R-P Texas, dice que el Proyecto de Ley del Senado 999 protegeria a las personas que a veces requieren usar una ambulancia, solo para luego enterarse de que deben miles de dolares solo por un corto viaje por la ciudad.

“En Texas hoy dia uno puede verse obligado a ir de un hospital a otro, como si fuera un centro de rehabilitacion en ambulancia,” observa Hutson, “y luego mas tarde, uno se entera de que esa ambulancia estaba fuera de la red y recibimos una gran factura sorpresa.”

En diciembre pasado, el Congreso aprobo href=”https://www.aha.org/system/files/media/file/2021/01/detailed-summary-of-no-surprises-act-advisory-1-14-21.pdf” target=”_blank”>una ley federal que prohibe las facturas medicas sorpresa, pero las ambulancias, las cuales pueden tener la tasa de facturacion fuera de la red mas alta que cualquier especialidad medica, fueron excluidas.

Un estudio encontro que el 71 por ciento de los viajes en ambulancia tienen el potencial de generar una factura sorpresa con un costo promedio para el paciente de 450 dolares.

A-A-R-P Texas tambien esta abogando por la aprobacion del Proyecto de Ley del Senado 2038 , la cual ha sido aprobada tentativamente por el Senado de Texas, para evitar el aumento de precios de ciertas pruebas relacionadas con la salud.

Hutson dice que tales practicas se hicieron obvias durante la pandemia, cuando la gente informo haber pagado entre mil y diez mil dolares por una prueba de COVID.

“Realmente, este tipo de problemas son sintomaticos porque en Texas los costos de la atencion medica son algo asi como un tren fuera de control,” declaro Hutson. “Texas es una especie de “zona cero” para algunos de los aumentos de precios mas atroces que vemos en la atencion medica.”

Hutson dice que el estado ya tiene leyes para evitar que los hoteles o las estaciones de servicio aumenten los precios durante un huracan u otro desastre natural, pero no se incluye una crisis medica.

El dice que las facturas medicas sorpresa suceden no solo a personas que no tienen seguro, sino tambien a muchas personas que piensan que estan completamente cubiertas para emergencias, solo para recibir facturas exorbitantes mientras se recuperan.

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