Texas cracked down on the practice of surprise medical billing this year under a measure approved overwhelmingly by the Texas Legislature and signed by Governor Greg Abbott. The new law, commonly known as Senate Bill 1264, seeks to protect people in state-regulated health plans from getting outrageous charges for out-of-network care.
On Dec. 18, the Texas Department of Insurance announced an emergency rule to implement a much-debated provision of the new law. AARP Texas Associate State Director Blake Hutson praised TDI’s action, saying that the rule is carefully crafted to ensure that patients won’t lose protections from surprise medical bills.
“The Texas Legislature overwhelmingly supported putting an end to the financial traps patients face when they have no control over who treats and bills them,” said Hutson. “This emergency rulemaking reflects the intent of the Legislature and comes as a welcome relief for consumers nervous about losing their long-awaited protections.”
Under SB1264, patients who knowingly want to receive nonemergency care from a doctor who is out of their health plan’s network are exempted from the law’s protections. Hutson said a new waiver form will be beneficial to patients in those situations. He said the waiver form clarifies that consumers do not have to sign away their new rights and that patients cannot be asked to pay for surprise bills if they didn’t have a choice in who treated them.