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Senate Passes Bill to End Surprise Medical Charges

It is the final scheduled day of the 2019 Legislative Session and lawmakers are passing a slew of health care-related bills.

The State Senate passed one today that we have been closely monitoring – S.6544, which closes a loophole in the surprise medical bills law that until now has excluded bills sent by out-of-network hospitals for emergency room care from the protections of the law. The bill would allow health plans to take out-of-network hospital charges to an arbitrator, or Independent Dispute Resolution (IDR) process.

Senators voted 61-0 in favor of the bill. It now awaits action in the State Assembly (A.8404), which passed a previous version of the legislation (A.264) earlier this month.

The Senate legislation says insurers must provide the hospital with at least 25 percent more than the amount the health care plan paid in its most recent in-network contract before taking any bill to the IDR process.

It also removes patients from the payment process, requiring that insurers pay hospitals directly for out-of-network emergency services.

And, it requires insurers and hospitals to commit to a mediation process at least 60 days before ending a contract between them to aid in resolving outstanding disputes.