Surprise medical billing legislation heads to Georgia governor’s desk

(PHOTO contributed by Atrium Medical Center)

(PHOTO contributed by Atrium Medical Center)

The Georgia Senate unanimously approved legislation aimed at protecting patients from receiving unexpected medical bills.

House Bill 888 intends to prevent people from receiving high hospital bills when they're unknowingly treated by out-of-network doctors in an emergency situation.

"This bill is here because about half of Americans have experienced a surprise bill ... it's the number one cause of bankruptcy in Georgia," said state Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, a Rome Republican.

If a patient is rushed to the emergency room for surgery, they may not know what kind of insurance the anesthesiologist that's putting them under takes until they get a bill. HB 888 would require patients to pay no more than their deductible, copay or other in-network payment level determined by their plan.

Providers can request arbitration for additional payment through the state insurance commissioner under this bill. Significantly, at that point the patient is out of the fight once he or she has paid their deductible or co-pay. Only the care provider and health insurance company remain in the dispute.

“The governor in his state of the state address said we’re going to get surprise billing done this year, and we are getting surprise billing done this year,” Hufstelter said.