Washington state patients get crucial protection against surprise medical bills

Jan 2, 2020, 10:51 AM

Among other legislation that took effect at the start of 2020 was a bill prohibiting some medical providers from hitting Washington state residents with surprise medical bills.

State Legislature passes trio of bills restricting debt collectors

The bill is touted as providing some of the strongest protections in the country against large-scale, unexpected medical billing.

“To finally put this issue to rest lifts a weight for many and should give thousands of consumers more piece of mind,” said Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler in a news release.

The legislation provides protections in certain scenarios against a practice known as balance billing, where a health care provider will charge a patient for the difference between the sum cost of medical services, and the amount covered by insurance.

More specifically, the bill prohibits balance billing in cases where a patient receives emergency care in an out-of-network emergency room, and for any non-emergency medical procedure at an in-network hospital.

State ranks sixth in nation for per capita state debt

Washington is one of just 13 states to close balance billing loopholes.

This came as many told stories of surprise bills from hospitals for short stays as high as $100,000.

“For more than a decade, we’ve heard from many people hit with a balance or surprise medical bill,” said Kreidler. “They shared their stories of receiving a bill on top of what they expected to pay, despite going to their health plan’s hospital or facility. Just within the last year we learned of two consumers who received surprise bills of over $100,000 and who both faced losing their homes and medical bankruptcy.”

These aren’t the only measures taking effect in 2020 designed to ease medical debt. Also getting passed in the last Legislative session was a trio of bills addressing debt collection, including one prohibiting the sale of medical debt to a collection agency for 120 days.

Local News

Image: The outside of Hard Rock Hotel is seen on April 14, 2023 in New York City....

Steve Coogan

Seattle’s Hard Rock Cafe to permanently close Dec. 1

A spokesperson confirmed to KIRO 7 the company is open to having another location in Seattle if the right one can be found.

2 hours ago

unsafe sleep...

Heather Bosch

19 infants died in Snohomish County from 2020-22 due to unsafe sleep

Snohomish county's child death review team found that many were preventable as most died from either suffocation or accidental strangulation.

4 hours ago

san juan 32 hour...

L.B. Gilbert

San Juan County starts 32-hour workweek for government employees

San Juan County is making a move to a 32-hour work week for county employees as they struggle with employee recruitment and retention.

6 hours ago

foo fighters tour...

L.B. Gilbert

Foo Fighters to play first Seattle show since Taylor Hawkins’ death

The Foo Fighters have announced a date for their return to Seattle. This will be their first tour since the death of Taylor Hawkins.

7 hours ago


Ted Buehner

This is why your phone alarm will go off Wednesday morning

A nationwide broadcast of the National Emergency Alert Test will be conducted by FEMA and the Federal Communications Committee (FCC).

7 hours ago

car crashes apartment everett...

Jake Chapman, KIRO 7 News

At least 3 units displaced after car crashes into Everett apartment

McNabb says he knows the family that lives inside the apartment the car crashed into and claims to have heard the crash from his living room.

9 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Washington state patients get crucial protection against surprise medical bills