Dear Governor Abbott,
As the financial security of Texas patients continues to be undermined by unexpected medical bills, the passage of SB 1264 through the House and Senate warrants commendation. However, this bill still requires your support.
Cases of consumers affected by surprise billing are not at all unusual. In fact, the Texas Department of Insurance received a record high number of requests for surprise billing mediation in 2018: over 4,000. Additionally, there are currently three hundred Texas hospitals in network for the three largest insurance providers which do not employ a single in network doctor for these same providers. This results in consumer vulnerability to surprise bills when they are transferred from hospital to hospital, or even when they receive treatment at a center recommended by their insurance provider.
New York’s 2014 legislation to protect consumers against surprise medical bills exemplifies SB 1264’s likely success. A study was conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2018 that showed a 34% decline in out of network billing and a 9% drop in ER doctor charges in New York. Furthermore, the New York law’s Independent Dispute Resolution process was incorporated into SB 1264. This allows health plans to pay providers through third party negotiation when surprise medical bills arise; removing the burden from the shoulders of Texas patients. This system has been highly effective in New York, where in two years, the law has been used to settle about 2,000 billing disputes.
Texans have been afflicted by surprise medical bills for too long. Our belief in the success of SB 1264 to protect consumers is supported by the efficacy of New York’s recent legislation combating this phenomenon. It is time to increase transparency and fairness in medical billing for all Texans. We ask for your support and signature of SB 1264.
Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG Director