Health and Consumer Advocates Gain New Momentum For Statewide Solution To Surprise ER Bills

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital announced a proposal to be considered by the San Francisco Health Commission today to end the practice of "balance billing," where insured patients get billed the remaining balance after insurer payment of an emergency room bill. 
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For Immediate Release: Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

For more information, contact

Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)

Rachel Linn Gish, director of communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)

As Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital announces new policy ending  the practice of “balance billing”

HEALTH AND CONSUMER ADVOCATES GAIN NEW MOMENTUM FOR STATEWIDE SOLUTION TO SURPRISE ER BILLS

  • New proposed ZSFGH policy to be heard today at the San Francisco Health Commission would ban ER “balance billing”, limiting patient bills to in-network cost-sharing and new out-of-pocket maximums, based on a sliding scale. Proposal also includes increased “charity care” for uninsured. 
  • Statewide solution to cover all California patients and hospitals, AB 1611 (Chiu), is scheduled to be heard next Tuesday, April 23rd, in California Assembly Health Committee.
  • AB1611, sponsored by Health Access California and the California Labor Federation, would stop surprise ER bills across the state, preventing bills to patients beyond in-network cost-sharing, and help prevent inflated premiums by setting a standard for reimbursement to the hospital at 150% of Medicare or average contracted rate.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital announced a proposal to be considered by the San Francisco Health Commission today to end the practice of “balance billing,” where insured patients get billed the remaining balance after insurer payment of an emergency room bill.  This practice can leave patients with bills in the tens of thousands of dollars. The California Legislature this year introduced AB 1611 (Chiu) to end this practice and it is set for it’s first hearing in the Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday, April 23rd. The bill builds on 2016’s AB 72, which prevented this practice in other health facilities.  Here is a statement from Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, and a co-sponsor of both AB 72 and this year’s AB 1611:

“The issue of surprise medical bills is much bigger than one hospital or one city. While we appreciate that San Francisco leaders are taking action to stop this practice at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, we will continue to seek a statewide solution. A bill currently in the California Legislature, AB 1611 by Assemblymember David Chiu, would end surprise emergency room bills that are not just unfair, but can send a family’s finances into a free-fall. Patients are doing everything right in seeking care during an emergency. When you or a loved are on a gurney in an ambulance, you are in no position to choose what emergency room you end up at, and you certainly should not get any extra or inflated charges if the hospital happens to be out-of-network.”

“AB 1611 closes loopholes in California’s otherwise strong consumer protections against surprise medical bills, taking the patient out of the middle of billing disputes between hospitals and insurers. After experiencing the trauma of an emergency, this bill helps ensure that patients and their families don’t face the additional trauma of an outrageous and unfair hospital bill.

“We hope this San Francisco proposal gives greater momentum for a solution that help patients throughout California and we urge hospital leaders to support these patient protections at the state level. With backing from patient, consumer, community, labor, and other organizations, AB 1611 will be heard next Tuesday in the Assembly Health Committee.”

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