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“Michelle Ledesma breathed a sigh of relief as lawmakers voted to send Senate Bill 490 to Gov. Greg Abbott,”  Arezow Doost, Josh Hinkle and David Barer wrote for KXAN News in the latest development in our prizewinning reporting partnership, “Medical Debt Lawsuits.” “It was May and she had already been tracking the bill for months during the last regular session. ‘I was getting email alerts,’ Ledesma said. ‘I started to follow each stage.’ It was the first time she had followed legislation this closely. Ledesma, who is from Cedar Park, added she realized the impact was wide reaching and not just personal. Ledesma explained in 2018 she was hospitalized for a severe bacterial infection. She said she had insurance but was billed more than $2,000 out of pocket. Two years after her treatment, she was sued by an area hospital for medical debt.  ‘I was sued for a bill that I received from a hospital, and I kept asking for the itemized statement. I never received it,’ Ledesma added. ‘All I wanted was to know what I was being charged for.” Stories like Ledesma’s have been heard by lawmakers who pushed for medical billing transparency. Effective Sept. 1, hospitals and health care facilities are required to give patients a written itemized bill before sending it to collections or trying to collect any money owed. The law states the itemized bill has to be in terms the patient understands and include medical codes and prices. The invoice can also be issued electronically through a patient portal. ‘My team and I are already kind of getting ready to make sure that those hospitals and medical facilities are in compliance with it,’ said State Rep. Caroline Harris, R-Round Rock. ‘And we’re also ready to just figure out, “Hey, if they’re not in compliance, why, you know, how can we help? Is there some issue with the language, you know, to clear up.’” Arezow Doost, Josh Hinkle and David Barer, “New medical bill transparency law in effect; what you need to know,” KXAN News.

Jeanne Pinder  is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded...