Texas Medical Board cancels plans for rule that could have allowed surprise billing

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The Texas Medical Board has canceled its plans for a rule that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said could undermine a new law to protect citizens from surprise medical billings.

Surprise medical bills are exorbitant charges for services that patients didn’t know were outside of their health insurance network.

The medical board’s proposed rule would have required physicians to provide patients – just before they are set to undergo emergency medical procedures – with a waiver that would outline so-called out-of-network charges and by which the patient would agree to pay them.

Patient advocate groups like the American Association of Retired Persons were also concerned the language of the proposed rule would have allowed surprise billings to continue occurring in all non-emergency health service situations.

Senate Bill 1264 prevents patients with state-regulated health insurance and without a choice of medical providers from being forced to pay sky-high medical bills for out-of-network services. That legislation, which will take effect Jan. 1, will require insurers and doctors to negotiate how to pay the nonpatient share of costs, the newspaper reported. 

Blake Hutson, a representative of Texas AARP, told the Statesman the exemptions from the rules should be narrowly defined. 

“It’s the message that we have really been pushing that this isn’t meant to be a wide-open loophole that any physician or a provider can use to continue the old bad practices,” he said. 

Patrick threatened to derail reconfirmation of members of the Texas Medical Board if they voted for the rule, the newspaper reported. 

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