Ga. Senate passes bill to stop surprise billing for medical patients

Ga. Senate passes bill to stop surprise billing for medical patients

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A piece of legislation passing through the Georgia State Senate this week aims to protect you from getting hit with surprise medical bills.

Senate Bill 359 aims to protect patients when it comes to out-of-network services that take patients by surprise.

An example would be a hospital emergency room that accepts your insurance but a doctor who works at that ER does not accept your insurance.

That doctor would be considered out of network.

According to one local House rep, the idea of passing this measure to protect consumers from surprise medical bills has been around for at least six years.

That's too long for some lawmakers.

One Savannah senator sounded off on the issue at a recent Health and Human Services committee meeting.

“I have said off-session, we have been working on this five years...some people are saying even seven years. If we don’t pass a balance bill or surprise bill this session...I think this is a failed session. That’s number one. Yeah, well it may not be a big surprise, we’ve been working on this for a long time. But that’s where we are,” Sen. Watson said.

Senate Bill 359 passed the Senate unanimously this week, and will now head to House committees for consideration.

"I agree with Senator Watson, we need to get it done."

Representative Jesse Petrea sits on the House Health and Human Services committee along with several other local representatives.

Petrea said he believes the latest iteration of the bill is a fair and reasonable approach, a compromise that better balances the needs of the hospitals, providers and insurers.

“Federally, there’s also an effort to fix this. So I think that emphasizes that this needs to be resolved. So I hope we’ll get this done. And it just makes sense, common sense if you think about it, for people to be in an in-network hospital,” said Petrea.

Rep. Petrea added though, that while he’s wholly behind the effort, he still hasn’t looked at the language in it’s entirety, and that could need some work.

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