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Colorado House shows overwhelming support to eliminate surprise medical billing practices

Colorado House votes 60-4 to protect patients from surprise medical bills; measure now heads to Senate.
Credit: Rep. Daneya Esgar
Colorado House passed surprise billing legislation 60-4 during Friday vote

DENVER — Legislation to prevent medical providers from sending so-called “surprise medical bills” to their patients moved one giant step closer to becoming law Friday morning. 

On a 60-4 vote, the Colorado House of Representatives passed House Bill 1174 on third reading, sending Rep. Daneya Esgar’s (D-Pueblo) legislation to the Senate. 

The legislation seeks to directly eliminate a practice exposed by 9Wants to Know in its “Lien on Me” investigation.   

9Wants to Know found hundreds of patients had been left vulnerable to wage garnishments and property liens after visiting hospitals in-network with their medical insurance plans.

Nicole Briggs, for example, visited Swedish Medical Center for an appendectomy. While the hospital was in-network with her insurance, the surgeon who removed her appendix was not. 

She then received a bill for nearly $5,000. 

When she refused to pay, the surgeon – using a collections company – sued her, put a lien on her home and ultimately started garnishing her wages. 

Her story, first profiled by 9Wants to Know in November, formed the basis of a national NBC investigation that aired on NBC Nightly News this week. 

9Wants to Know has discovered more than 200 liens placed on homes since 2017 in the Denver area by the same collections company that went after Briggs. 

“I think today’s vote showed we really care about the consumer,” Esgar said. “We have a solid bill that brought everyone to the table.”

Surprise billing legislation had, during the previous four legislative sessions, failed to even make it out of committee. 

Friday’s vote sends 1174 to the Senate where it's unclear how soon it will get a committee vote. Esgar said she remains optimistic about her bill’s chances considering the overwhelming support it received in the House. 

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