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Bill Would End "Surprise" Medical Charges

Office of the Insurance Commissioner

A bill that would a stop the practice known as “surprise billing” on medical bills has easily passed the Washington state House of Representatives.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler crafted the bill that protects consumers from receiving a surprise medical bill for out-of network services.

Kreidler says that billing comes when a consumer gets services from an In-network provider, that uses out-of-network services.

 “Maybe let’s say a hospital. They may have someone coming in to deliver services, like anesthesiology for a surgical procedure who is out-of-network. Then that out-of-network provider will not accept the reimbursement from the health insurer, and will balance bill the consumer the difference," Kreidler said.

The insurance commissioner says those kind of charges can often far exceed the normal out-of-pocket limits set by health insurance policies.

“We’ve got a couple of examples out of southwest Washington right now where one surprise bill was up around $100,000, and another was $200,000. It goes well beyond what they anticipated as their co-pay and deductible,” he said.

The new bill would compensate the out-of-network provider at standard rates.

While the bill passed easily in the House by a vote of 84 to 13, Kreidler says similar previous bills have stalled before in the Senate. It now goes to the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee, where a similar bill passed out of committee unanimously earlier this session.


Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.