State Rep. Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin) voted this past week to support House Bill 388, known as the Family Pocketbook Protection Act. The bill will help consumers in fighting against surprise medical billing expenses and lowering healthcare costs. The bill passed in a bipartisan and unanimous vote within the Ohio House.

Surprise medical bills are unexpected charges patients face after receiving care from an out-of-network health care practitioner at an in-network health care facility. The bill bans surprise billing, also called “balance billing,” and put in place a fair billing arbitration process between insurers and medical providers. The plan is expected to help reduce health care costs as well by encouraging more health care professionals to contract with insurers rather than remain out of network.

“This is such a timely issue due to the financial uncertainties brought upon many people by the pandemic,” said Reineke. “Surprise billing has also impacted individuals and families for several years. I’m pleased that the House came together to pass this significant legislation and my hope is that we can get it signed into law to prevent Ohioans from being blindsided by large out-of-pocket healthcare expenses moving forward.”

Specifically, under the bill, an out-of-network health care professional, who provides care during an in-network procedure, could elect to be paid the in-network rate by the insurance company or could negotiate a different rate with the insurance company. If no agreement is reached, the health care provider can pursue “baseball style” arbitration. Under this approach, each side would submit documentation supporting their position to a neutral, third party arbiter who would make a final, binding decision.

According to Stanford University researchers, surprise billing is on the rise across America and so is the expense, with average costs tripling over a seven-year period to more than $2,000 per bill.

The Family Pocketbook Protection Act now moves to the Senate for further action.

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