A bill increasing protections from surprise billing (HB 1688) has passed the Legislature and is on its way to Governor Inslee’s desk for signature. Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler requested the legislation to help align Washington’s recent Balance Billing Protection Act with the new federal No Surprises Act that took effect on Jan. 1, 2022.
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“We heard so many heartbreaking stories from consumers about their battles with surprise medical bills,” said Commissioner Kreidler. “I’m incredibly proud of the bipartisan law we created several years ago and that the federal government followed in our footsteps. Now, we have the best of both laws. I’m very grateful to Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle, Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver and Sen. Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor for their leadership on this critical issue.”
The federal No Surprises Act extends surprise billing protections to all consumers, including people with self-funded health plans and federal employees. It also expands the types of services that are protected from surprise billing. Congress gave those states with strong surprise billing protections, including Washington, added flexibility in how they align the new federal law with state protections.
House Bill 1688 will protect consumers from balance billing for a broader set of health services, including behavioral health emergencies treated outside of a hospital emergency room in settings such as crisis triage centers and the services of mobile crisis response teams. It also prohibits health insurers or medical providers from asking a patient to waive these critical protections.
This press release was provided by the Office of Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.