Governor Signs Nation’s Strongest Consumer Protections Against Surprise Medical Bills

Friday, September 23, 2016

(Sacramento, CA) – Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 72, which will make California home to the nation’s strongest consumer protections against surprise medical bills. The lead author, Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), made the following statement:

“Today is a great day for California consumers.  With the signing of AB 72, patients will be protected from paying surprise medical bills when they do everything correctly by staying within their health networks when they seek medical care.  No patient should pay for a surprise bill or be forced into bankruptcy because of a complicated and unfair billing system,” Bonta explained.

Currently, when a patient undergoes a medical procedure and does everything right to keep costs down by going to an in-network facility, he or she can still unwittingly receive care from an out-of-network physician, who subsequently can bill them directly for costs the insurance company won’t cover.

“California is leading the way to protect consumers from surprise medical bills that for too long have bankrupted families and destroyed lives.  AB 72 has huge bipartisan support because it strikes a compromise between insurance companies and doctors that puts patients first and creates the strongest consumer protection law in the nation,” said Bonta.

“This landmark law now guarantees that Californians will be protected from surprise out-of-network medical bills. Patients can rest easy knowing that when they follow the rules of their plan and go to an in-network facility, they will only be required to pay the in-network costs for their care and not be faced with an outrageous bill they never saw coming,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, and a co-sponsor of AB 72.

“The Legislature has finally tackled one of the longest-debated issues ever considered by the California State Legislature: protecting patients against surprise medical bills. California will finally end this unfair practice,” Bonta concluded.

“With his signature today, Governor Brown has enacted some of the strongest patient protections in the nation against surprise medical bills. This issue has been debated but has gone unresolved for decades, leaving consumers stuck in the middle of billing disputes between doctors and insurance companies, and putting family finances at risk. Especially with the many newly-insured lower-income families now in coverage under the ACA, the need for a solution to this long-standing problem took on new urgency," said Wright.

AB 72 was joint authored by Assemblymembers from throughout the state, including Assemblymembers Susan Bonilla, Brian Dahle, Lorena Gonzalez, Brian Maienschein, Miguel Santiago, and Jim Wood. The bill is the result of a deep stakeholder engagement process and is sponsored by Health Access California and the California Labor Federation. Assemblymember Bonta has tackled the issue for the past two years, beginning with AB 533 of 2015.

Assemblymember Bonta represents the 18th Assembly District, which includes the cities of Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro. Bonta Chairs the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, Assembly Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security Committee, and the Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color.