Rep. Davids’ Insurance Accountability and Transparency Act aims to address surprise medical billing

Leah Wankum - November 19, 2019 9:00 am
Rep. Sharice Davids has introduced legislation to help prevent surprise medical billing. File photo

Rep. Sharice Davids introduced legislation on Monday designed to address the growing issue of surprise medical billing.

The bill, called the Insurance Accountability and Transparency Act, would require insurance companies to update their provider directories at least once every six months so that patients don’t unintentionally go to an out-of-network provider.

“When Kansans look to see if a doctor or hospital is in-network from their insurance company, they expect and depend on that information to be accurate, so they can make decisions about care for themselves and their families,” Davids said. “But right now, too many folks are unknowingly relying on inaccurate information – and are paying the price in surprise medical bills.”

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There are no federal laws mandating that insurance directories stay updated with a list of doctors, hospitals or other providers that are in-network and covered by an insurance policy, according to Davids’ office. As a result, patients may visit a doctor that their insurance directory says is in-network, then find out later on that the provider is out-of-network when they’re hit with an unexpected bill.

A recent study out of the University of Chicago found that 57% of American adults have been surprised by a medical bill they thought would be covered by their health insurance. Of those surprise medical bills, 20% came as a result of a doctor not being included in the patient’s health insurer’s network.

“This commonsense legislation will help ensure insurance companies do their part to provide folks with accurate information, so they aren’t hit with a crippling bill they never saw coming,” Davids said. “Health care is expensive enough as it is, and surprise medical bills only add to the burden. This is an issue that Democrats and Republicans agree need to be fixed, and I’m committed to doing just that.”

While this bill addresses one piece of the bigger picture, the House of Representatives is working on a larger surprise medical billing package that will address other areas of healthcare. For instance, one common way people get surprised with a medical bill is by getting emergency care, such as a visit to the emergency room or a ride in an ambulance or air ambulance.

The House’s package would address issues such as large bills for emergency care service and ambulance rides. Davids’ office staff said they hope her bill will be part of that larger package.

Surprise medical billing was the main topic of discussion at a recent panel led by Davids earlier this month with Dr. Lee Norman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and healthcare professionals from St. Luke’s, Alzheimer’s Association and AdventHealth.

Johanna Warshaw with Davids’ office said more than 150 people filled the room to follow the panel discussion and participate in the conversation. A recent survey by Davids’ office also collected hundreds of responses from people who have been affected by surprise medical billing.

“Whether it was during our round table on surprise billing or from folks calling into our office, I’ve heard from hundreds of people across the Third District and in Johnson County who have struggled with surprise medical bills they simply can’t afford,” Davids said. “This legislation is one part of a larger solution to address the problem of surprise medical billing and protect families in our community.”

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