Georgia lawmakers considering bill to broaden health insurance coverage

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ATLANTA- A new bill introduced in the Georgia Senate Tuesday could help you save money the next time you go to the hospital.

Georgia’s Senate Finance Chair says this bill would make insurers and medical providers handle any costs, particularly out-of-network coverage and remove the burden from patients.

 A trip to the emergency room can quickly add up.

“It’s the patient’s rights to know what things are going to cost them,” said Sandi Marcus, Director of Georgia Coalition for Vaccine Choice.

That’s why Georgia lawmakers want to make healthcare affordable.

“Medical bankruptcy in this country. Many often times people are in an emergency situation and get a bill because someone was out of network,” said Senator Chuck Hufstetlar, Senate Finance Chair.

“Well I’ve dealt with it as a patient myself. I was in a very serious accident about 15 years ago. I was life flighted and the bill was $35000,” Marcus said.

The new bill could make insurers and medical providers responsible for out-of-network costs.

“You can go for an emergency at the hospital and the ER physicians group may not work for the hospital. They may not be in network, radiologist, anesthesiologist may not be in network. And all of a sudden you have no choice and people have no choice in these emergency situations,” Hufstetlar said.

“My family was not briefed or if we had any rights to refuse certain treatments,” Marcus said.

According to a recent study by the American Journal for Public Health, nearly 60% of people who file for bankruptcy, say it’s because of medical debt.

“The hospital bill was astronomical. It was life or death so you are going to choose to receive the services,” Marcus said.

Senators say it’s worked well in other states.

“The consumer is left out and instead of them getting the it will be worked out by the other people will be involved, as it should be,” said Hufstetlar. “The health care provider will get a prompt payment. It may not be what they want but they’ll get a payment. It has been very successful in other states.”

“I think the patient will benefit and that’s what I am concerned with,” said Marcus.

The bill now heads to a study committee for review.

Georgia’s Senate Finance Chair says the Peach State is number one in the country when it comes to narrow network providers. 

The proposed changes would require a payment from the insurance to the health care provider within 30 days in these emergency situations and a means to negotiate if they don’t agree with the amount.

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