Surprise medical billing bill codifies maximum protection

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DENVER — A bipartisan effort to strengthen protections for Colorado residents against surprise billing practices, the Health Insurance Surprise Billing Protections bill (HB22-1284), passed the state legislature yesterday, moving to the Governor’s desk. With the existence of both state and federal laws around surprise billing practices in effect, this bill will effectively merge the two laws, providing insured Colorado residents the maximum protections against surprise medical billing practices. 

“The federal No Surprises Act was a huge win for consumers against the unfair practice of surprise medical billing, ” said CoPIRG advocate Alex Simon. “This important state law provides needed clarity to health care providers, helping ensure consumers are getting the maximum protections under both federal and state policies.”

A surprise medical bill is an unexpected bill from an out-of-network provider or an out-of-network facility. The problem of surprise medical billing is so rampant that 1 in 5 Americans who visit an emergency room or have surgery  receive them. The average surprise emergency room bill costs the consumer about $600 and air ambulances can be in the thousands of dollars. Anesthesiologists charge about 3.5 times what Medicare was paying.  

HB22-1284 ensures that our state law and the federal law work in tandem and lessen confusion for consumers and the providers who have to follow both laws. For example, it is important for patients to know in advance what their protections are, and how they can avoid unnecessary out-of-network charges. This bill works to ensure that state and federal notice provisions work together, so providers can comply more easily and consumers can better understand their rights.

Additionally, because both laws allow certain providers to ask patients to waive their protections if they choose to use a provider outside of their insurance network, the bill provides patients additional time to see the cost estimate of those out-of-network services and make alternative arrangements if desired.

HB22-1284 heads next to Governor Jared Polis’ desk for signature.