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Arizona House Passes 'Surprise Billing' Measure To Protect Hospital Patients

Arizona lawmakers want to protect hospital patients from surprise billing.

The House, on Wednesday, passed SB 1441 to keep patients from receiving unanticipated medical charges not covered by their insurance because the hospital used an out-of-network provider during a procedure.

Republican Rep. Regina Cobb is a Kingman dentist.  She predicted the bill will do one of two things:  Fold doctors into the insurance company networks, where they’ll be forced to accept what the insurance wants to pay, or refuse to lend their expertise to hospitals.

"This is going to have a chilling effect on health care, on doctors,'' said Rep. Maria Syms, whose husband is a doctor. "They are not going to be able to set their own fees.''

Rep. Pamela Powers-Hannley was among the 19 who voted against the measure, but admitted the current system doesn’t work even when a patient does the due diligence.

"The patient knows his doctor's in network. He knows the hospital's in network. And he's surprised by miscellaneous personnel who aren't,” she reminded her colleagues, “That person did not make that choice. The hospital made that choice.”

Ultimately, Powers-Hannley voted against the bill because she said it did not go far enough to protect patients.

Tucson doctor and lawmaker, Rep. Randall Friese, urged his fellow practitioners to “think about the patient.”

Forty other representatives voted in favor of the amended version of the bill. 

It heads back to the Senate for its final approval, which means the “Surprise Billing” measure could still be sidelined before it has a chance to be signed into law.