Congress advances legislation to outlaw practice of surprise medical billing

Posted: Updated:

Help could be on the way for tens of thousands of New Jersey families who get hit each year with surprise medical bills. A congressional committee has unanimously passed a bill to outlaw the practice.

Kane In Your Corner has done several investigations into surprise medical bills, most recently in April. It typically happens when patients get emergency care. They may go to an in-network hospital, only to find out weeks later that one of the doctors who treated them does not accept their insurance. New Jersey law supposedly outlaws the practice, but only applies to about 30% of patients. Most, who get health insurance through their employers, are covered by federal law, which means only Congress can solve the problem.

RELATED: Kane In Your Corner: Protecting yourself from surprise medical bills 
MORE: Kane In Your Corner podcast: Surprise medical billing - listen here 

That’s exactly what the “No Surprises Act” is intended to accomplish. Bill co-sponsor Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone says the bill would require out-of-network doctors who provide emergency care to accept whatever they would have been paid had they been in-network.

“The 2019 in-network rate is the base, and there's an inflation factor every year,” Pallone says, “so the insurance companies can't come back and squeeze the doctors and say, ‘We're going to give you less than we did this year.’” That, he says, will protect patients without making health insurance premiums more expensive.

But the American Medical Association is not completely on board with the bill.

In a written statement AMA president Dr. Patrice A. Harris, says, "While we continue to have concerns with elements of the legislation, we remain committed to working with all committee members to secure further improvements to protect patients, preserve access and foster fair payments for out-of-network services."

The bill still has to pass the full Congress, but if it does, Pallone says President Donald Trump has already promised to sign it into law.

sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 20 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login or create an account to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."