Have you ever received a confusing medical bill where you were in total shock at what you owe your medical provider and what you thought your insurance would cover? They call it "Surprise Medical Billing and the practice is now illegal in Washington State!

According to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner of Washington, the provider and insurer must now handle that disagreement in arbitration (the courts) instead of seeking the difference from the patient -- if Gov. Inslee signs it into law.

Surprise billing occurs when you're treated for an emergency or scheduled procedure at an in-network hospital or surgery facility and are seen by an out-of-network provider. In addition to your expected out-of-pocket costs, you also get a bill for the difference between what your insurer has agreed to pay that provider and what they believe the service was worth.

Some types of providers, including anesthesiologists, radiologists, pathologists, and labs may not be contracted with your insurer even though they provide services at an in-network hospital or facility. This practice is also called “balance billing,” however, some balance billing is not a surprise. For example, if you're treated by a provider that you know is not in your plan's network, you shouldn't be surprised to receive a bill for their services, on top of what your plan covers.

Commissioner Mike Kreidler has proposed legislation that would prevent people from getting a surprise medical bill when they seek medical services from an in-network facility, but are treated by an out-of-network provider. If an insurer and provider cannot agree on a price for the covered services, they can go to binding arbitration but cannot bill the consumer for the amount in dispute.

His bill passed the House of Representatives on March 4 with a strong bipartisan vote of 84-13, passed the Senate on April 10 with a vote of 47-2. and was concurred on April 18 by the House on a 95-0 vote. Next, it travels to the governor's desk for his signature."

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