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Letter: Lawmakers need to find a remedy for surprise charges on medical bills
0920 Health stethoscope

As a physician who cares for people who live in this community, and as the president of the largest physicians’ advocacy organization in Georgia, I urge state lawmakers to pass House Bill 314 to put an end to “surprise medical bills” in a fair, sustainable and comprehensive way.

Patients receive surprise medical bills after they unknowingly receive care from a physician their insurance company retrospectively deems “out-of-network” — keeping in mind that physicians, especially in ER settings, often don’t know if they are in a given network because these networks are in such a constant state of flux.

Georgians are struggling to pay record-high health insurance premiums and deductibles, while their insurers continue to narrow their physician networks to control costs. It’s no wonder that these insurance companies are raking in record profits, which have been bolstered by the financial windfall associated with the tax reform legislation that recently passed at the federal level.

The Georgia Senate has on three occasions passed a bill, HB 314, to put an end to surprise medical bills with strong bipartisan support. Yet for the for the second year in a row, the House of Representatives has failed to pass this legislation. Unfortunately, the House is focused on, and narrowly passed, a “Band-Aid” measure (SB 8) that does not solve the problem because it is limited to transparency for elective procedures, and one that does not address emergency settings in any way.

With this in mind, I encourage my fellow Hall County residents to contact their state lawmakers to urge them to pass HB 314, which is the right solution for surprise medical bills.

Under HB 314, health insurers will have to pay physicians they deem out-of-network a fair and predetermined amount for the care they provide. Moreover, passing this bill will get patients out of the middle of the surprise billing mess, and it will give them the much-needed budget certainty and peace of mind they deserve.

Frank McDonald, M.D., M.B.A.

President, Medical Association of Georgia

Neurologist, Longstreet Clinic, Gainesville

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