N.H. House Overwhelmingly Approves Proposal to Outlaw 'Balance Billing'

Mar 6, 2018

A bipartisan measure to protect patients against so-called “balance billing” got a strong endorsement from the New Hampshire House on Tuesday – sailing through with no debate and passing with a vote of 326-5.

Rep. Dave Luneau has been trying to get a bill to outlaw so-called “balance billing” to floor of the House since 2016. After a few failed attempts and a study committee last fall, he finally had his chance on Tuesday.

"If I know insured patients have received surprise and unavoidable bills for healthcare services, and if I know these services were included in a patient's insurance policy,” then, Luneau told his colleagues, they should support the bill.

The goal of his proposal is to make sure patients aren’t saddled with unexpected out-of-network bills for care they receive at in-network hospitals. While this can happen in lots of different medical settings, patients often encounter these kinds of charges after visiting the emergency room – where patients have little say in the doctor that’s treating them and might not know they’re out-of-network until after they’re discharged.

Instead of tasking patients with the burden of sorting out these unresolved charges, the bill tells hospitals and insurers to deal with the discrepancies on their own. If they can’t reach an agreement, they can ask the insurance department to weigh in.

The New Hampshire Insurance Department, which typically remains neutral on most pieces of legislation, has taken the rare position of endorsing the bill. It has drawn pushback from hospital and physicians’ groups, who argue it will limit flexibility and gives too much leverage to insurance companies.

Governor Chris Sununu has also said he supports this proposal — but before the bill reaches his desk, it still has to make it through the Senate.