Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed a medical cost transparency bill to make information about costs available to Texans on Monday, in the wake of an investigative partnership we did with KXAN TV in Austin, Tex.
The bill requires hospitals that are asking for money from patients to send them a written, understandable, itemized invoice before sending them to collections.
The bill was introduced in the Texas Legislature after our “Medical Debt Lawsuits” partnership with KXAN. We investigated a Central Texas hospital that sued hundreds of patients over unpaid medical bills. Several of those patients told KXAN that the bills they got were vague, and that they were not able to get itemized bills before they were sued.
“Rep. Caroline Harris, R-Round Rock, and Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, worked together to pass the legislation, which received pushback in the early stages from the Texas Hospital Association over the cost of providing an itemized bill for every patient,” Arezow Doost wrote for KXAN.
“’I am honored to author SB 490, which calls for transparency in the medical billing process. Working alongside Representative Caroline Harris, this legislation shows that Texas puts patients first,’ Hughes said to KXAN investigators.”
The legislation was amended to only include health care facilities and hospitals but not doctors or federally qualified health care centers. A. health care provider may issue the itemized bill electronically, including through a patient portal, the legislation said.
The bill goes into effect Sept. 1.
The investigation documented how medical debt lawsuits had hit hundreds of Texas residents, prompting questions from lawmakers. In response to a callout to Texas residents, we received a wave of responses. The project included a list of resources for aid in dealing with medical debt.
The investigation also won a regional Edward R. Murrow award from the Radio Television Digital News Association for large markets for investigative reporting and shared in a digital first-place award with other KXAN work.