California Consumers Gain Nation’s Strongest Protection from Surprise Medical Bills
Bonta-authored law takes effect on July 1
(SACRAMENTO) – Consumers in California will be protected from surprise medical bills under a new law taking effect July 1. The lead author, Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), says AB 72 makes California home to the nation’s strongest consumer protections.
A recent study by Yale University found 22% of visits to emergency rooms resulted in surprise medical bills. A separate survey by Consumer Reports found 30% of patients had reported receiving a surprise medical bill.
“This was clearly a huge problem that has now been solved for families across California. This law marks a milestone for California consumers. When patients do everything correctly by staying within their health networks when they seek medical care, they shouldn’t get hit with a surprise bill that is often in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. No one should be forced into financial ruin or bankruptcy because of an unfair and complex billing system,” Bonta explained.
Prior to AB 72, when a patient underwent a medical procedure and did everything right to keep costs down by going to an in-network facility, he or she could still unwittingly receive care from an out-of-network physician, who subsequently could bill them directly for costs the insurance company wouldn’t cover.
“This law shows how Californians win when insurance companies and doctors work together and put patients first. We’ve created the strongest consumer protection law in the nation and solved a problem that this legislature had struggled with for years,” said Bonta.
AB 72 requires the health plan and health insurer to reimburse non-contracting individual healthcare providers at an amount that is the greater of the average contracted rate or 125% of the Medicare reimburses rate.
AB 72 was co-sponsored by the California Labor Federation and Health Access California.
“Even with all the uncertainty about health care coming out of Washington, Sacramento is providing some more security for patients, who should now no longer get surprise out-of-network bills when they go to an in-network hospital or other facility. California has now become the state with the strongest protections in the nation against surprise bills, benefiting millions of consumers,” said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, and co-sponsor of last year’s AB 72 with the California Labor Federation. “This landmark law to protect patients from financial calamity is the result of many Californians telling their story of being saddled with surprise medical bills of thousands of dollars. We must continue this progress while not allowing California’s key consumer protections to be undermined at the federal level. We thank Assemblymember Bonta, Governor Brown, and all the legislators who stood up for Californians to enact this law.”
AB 72 was joint-authored by Assemblymembers from throughout the state, including Assemblymembers Brian Dahle, Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, Brian Maienschein, Miguel Santiago, Jim Wood and former Assemblymember Susan Bonilla. The bill is the result of a deep stakeholder engagement process and is sponsored by Health Access California and the California Labor Federation. Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 72 on September 23, 2016.
Assemblymember Rob Bonta represents the 18th Assembly District, which includes Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro and is the Assistant Majority Leader and Chair of the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Legislative Caucus.