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Bill to protect patients from surprise medical bills passes Colorado Senate

A bill that would eliminate surprise medical bills from landing in the mailboxes of patients moves one step closer to becoming law.

DENVER — After years of similar bills failing in committee, the state Senate passed the "Out-of-network Health Care Services bill," a bill filed in response to the 9Wants to Know investigation "Lien On Me."

That investigation detailed how out-of-network doctors might work at otherwise in-network health care facilities.

The bill, aimed at curtailing the practice of "surprise medical bills," passed the Senate with a bipartisan contingent of senators. Four Republican senators, including Minority Leader Chris Holbert (R-Lone Tree), voted against the measure.

It now goes back to the state House where it was previously passed (before some minor changes in the Senate) by a wide margin. It is expected to pass the House again.

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The bill aims to eliminate what its sponsors call “deceptive trade practices” taking place inside Colorado hospitals and other medical facilities. The "Lien on Me" series focused on how patients in the state have gone to an in-network facility for care, only to be treated by an out-of-network doctor without being told. That practice has led to massive, surprise medical bills for many of our neighbors.

Due to public outrage after the series aired, state legislators moved to push legislation stopping that practice.

The bill demands that patients ("consumers") are told of the "potential impact of receiving services from an out-of-network provider or health care facility". READ the bill text at this link

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HB-1174 would also establish the reimbursement amount for out-of-network providers that provide health care services to a person covered at an in-network facility. A penalty would also be created to punish those who do not comply with the new requirements outlined in the bill.

Holbert released a statement to 9NEWS explaining his personal opposition to the bill. He was one of the four Republican senators to vote against the latest version of the bill. He said this bill will encourage the best doctors to leave Colorado and encourage the worst to come here.

"The surprise billing aspects of the bill are a good step in the right direction. However, capping reimbursement rates to doctors at the 60th percentile will make Colorado among the lowest reimbursement states in the nation," Holbert said in an emailed statement. "My concern is that will lead to the best-qualified doctors moving to states where they will be paid more. When that happens, we should expect that lowest qualified doctors would come to Colorado where they will be paid the least. That is an undesirable outcome and why I voted 'No' on the bill."

State Rep. Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo) was one of the prime sponsors of the bill. When it passed the House late Tuesday night, she tweeted how happy she was the bill finally looked like it'd make it to the governor's desk.

"After years of work, HB 19-1174, addressing out of network billing in CO, takes one of the final steps to becoming law," she wrote. "Passes Senate 31-4 Thanks to my co-sponsors Rep. Marc Caitlin, Sen. Brittany Pettersen, Sen. Bob Gardner and to Chris Vanderveen for your work exposing this problem."

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