This report is an update to KXAN’s “Medical Debt Lawsuits” investigation. Our team followed this bill during Texas’ legislative session. 

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that will require hospitals requesting payment from patients to provide a written, understandable itemized invoice before sending them to collections. 

The Senate approved SB 490 in May, sending it to Abbott for his signature. This was the second session the bill was filed.

“Signed into law today SB 490, which requires Texas hospitals to provide patients with itemized bills. I thank @SenBryanHughes & Rep. @CarolineForTX for leading the effort to deliver greater healthcare price transparency for Texans,” tweeted Abbott after the ceremonial signing on Wednesday, June 7th.

The Medical Billing Accountability Act was amended to only include health care facilities and hospitals but not doctors or federally qualified health care centers. The bill explained that a health care provider may issue the itemized bill electronically, including through a patient portal. 

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. 

“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.

Harris tweeted saying the new law will require medical providers to give a clear and detailed receipt to the patient so they know exactly what they’re being charged. Hughes also tweeted about Abbott signing the bill into law calling it a “major victory.”

In Texas, we will now put patients and families first,” Harris said in a press release after the bill signing ceremony. “Transparency and clarity are vital for business, and the business of your healthcare should be no exception.”

She added that the bill had the support of over 114 fellow House colleagues who coauthored and voted for the legislation. 

Harris worked closely with Hughes on a similar measure last session. She was a member of his staff before being elected to serve in the legislature herself.

“I was honored to work on this legislation with @CarolineForTX who served in our office before being elected to the legislature. Until last year, we hadn’t had any Senate staff turnover. We were sad to lose her, but we’re happier that Texas gained a great state representative,” Hughes tweeted.

KXAN asked THA about the amended legislation but was told by a spokesperson, “We don’t have anything to add.”

A fiscal note for the bill said there is no significant costs anticipated for the state, and implementation could be accomplished by utilizing existing resources.

The bill follows a KXAN investigation into a Central Texas hospital that sued hundreds of patients over unpaid medical bills. Several of those patients told KXAN they received vague bills and were unable to get itemized receipts before being served with a lawsuit. 

The bill says the appropriate licensing authority can take disciplinary action against the provider for any violations. 

The bill goes into effect Sept. 1.