This report is an update to KXAN’s “Medical Debt Lawsuits” investigation. Our team will continue to follow the bills during Texas’ legislative session.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The House Public Health Committee voted out Senate Bill 490 on Wednesday. The legislation pushes for medical billing transparency by requiring itemized medical invoices for patients.

The legislation – authored by Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola – is headed to the House floor next. The bill would require hospitals and other providers that are requesting payment from a patient to send a written itemized invoice after providing a service.

The majority of the committee voted in favor of the legislation, which had a substitute. The bill will have to go back to the Senate for final approval, if it clears the House. 

The Texas Senate passed the bill last week. Hughes testified leading up to that vote about the importance of the bill with members of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee. 

Companion bill 

An identical bill filed by Rep. Caroline Harris, R-Round Rock, as a companion in the House is also moving forward and could be heard on the House floor in the coming days.

House Bill 1973 faced some pushback from some lawmakers and a Houston health system during its initial committee hearing in early April. Harris filed a substitute addressing challenges and costs to implement.

One change reflected in the substitute is that the provider must submit the itemized bill no later than the 30th day after the provider receives a final payment on the service from a third party. Another change now includes that a healthcare provider could face a $1,000 fine for each violation along with other disciplinary action.

A fiscal note for the bill said there is no significant costs to the State anticipated and that based on analysis of the Texas Medical Board, the Health and Human Services Commission, and the Department of State Health Services, the implementation of the bill could be accomplished by utilizing existing resources. 

Central Texans share stories 

Some Central Texas patients who have been dealing with medical debt lawsuits are watching the progress of the bills closely.

“That is great news to hear,” Michelle Ledesma said after learning that the bill is moving quickly and could become law.

She has reached out to lawmakers and shared her experience about getting sued for medical debt by a Williamson County hospital that has filed hundreds of lawsuits against patients in recent years.

Court documents show Ledesma’s case resulted in a judgment in her favor in March, but the hospital’s attorneys appealed.

“I’ve contacted three law firms so far and no luck with getting someone to help me with my case. I’ve been told it’s ‘out of our wheelbase, we don’t handle medical debt’ or they “only handle credit card debt’,” she added. “I’m even more frustrated with this still hanging over my head since I can’t seem to get legal assistance.”