Senate Bill 1264, which recently passed during the 86th Texas legislative session, places restrictions on certain out-of-network providers regarding the practice known as “balance billing” and establishes a process through which health plans and providers may resolve payment disputes. The bill is effective September 1, 2019 and applies to services and supplies provided on or after January 1, 2020.

I.  Balance Billing and SB 1264

The term “balance billing” refers to when a healthcare provider bills a patient for the difference between the reimbursement provided by the patient’s health insurance and the amount charged by the provider. SB 1264 places restrictions on balance billing by out-of-network (OON) providers of emergency services, facility-based services provided at an in-network healthcare facility, and lab and diagnostic imaging services that are related to an in-network service. The law disallows these providers from billing a patient for an amount greater than the applicable copayment, coinsurance, and deductible under the health plan based on the initial amount determined to be payable by the plan, or if applicable, a modified amount determined under the plan’s appeal process.
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Bipartisan legislation to address surprise medical billing was introduced June 19 in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.  Most notable for health insurers and providers is the way the bill tackles the biggest sticking point in the issue—mandating a benchmark rate to avoid pay disputes between health insurers and non-network providers.

Surprise medical billing is commonly the result of care received in an in-network facility, such as a hospital, but that included the services of a non-network provider, such as an anesthesiologist who is based at the in-network facility.
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Texas_157051216Rep. Dustin Burrows (Dist. 83, Lubbock) introduced H.B. 307, which could significantly impact facilities and practitioners that provide services on an out-of-network basis. Specifically, for services other than emergency services, H.B. 307 requires that a facility or practitioner provide a patient with the amount, including facility fees, that:

(1)  the patient’s health benefit plan will reimburse the facility or practitioner for the service, if the facility or practitioner is a participating provider under the patient’s health plan; or

(2) the facility or practitioner will charge for the service, if the facility or practitioner is not a participating provider under the patient’s health plan.
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gavel-scales2013%20052[The out-of-network (OON) business model faces challenges as the result of changes to health and benefit plan OON coverage, but a ruling by Judge Hoyt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas suggests that health plans should be careful in refusing payment based on perceived OON high charges, questions about OON co-insurance collection, or provider financial arrangements.
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