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 Texas Senate passed medical billing transparency legislation Thursday to require hospitals and other providers to send patients an itemized invoice before attempting to collect money from them.
Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, authored the legislation — Senate Bill 490. The bill would require a plain language description of each health care service or supply so patients can better understand charges.
The full Senate voted unanimously in favor of the legislation.
Hughes testified last week at the State Capitol and laid out the bill to members of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee.
“It’s pretty straightforward. Not a radical concept,” Hughes testified.
Last session, a similar Senate bill — also filed by Hughes — cleared this same stage in the legislative process — but never received a House committee hearing to advance further. However, the current Senate legislation is two weeks ahead of its predecessor in process, which supporters say gives it a greater chance of making it to the governor’s desk before the session winds down in just over a month.
An identical bill filed as a companion in the House is also moving forward and recently cleared its committee. Supporters point to House Bill 1973’s progress and the likelihood that its author — Rep. Caroline Harris, R-Round Rock — could serve as a sponsor for Hughes’ Senate bill as stronger indicators the issue of itemized invoices for Texas patients is closer to becoming law than ever.
However, the House bill did face pushback from a Houston health system and some lawmakers during its initial committee hearing. Those opposed to the bill have said it would present significant challenges and costs to implement, but Harris offered a substitute she said would address concerns — which later led to it advancing to the full House where it has more than 100 co-authors. A committee report has now been filed, and Harris could lay the legislation out on the House floor in the coming days.
Medical debt lawsuits
Lawmakers and KXAN investigators continue to hear from patients who said they received vague bills from a Williamson County hospital but were unable to get an itemized invoice. When they didn’t pay, they got sued for medical debt.
Last week, Michelle Ledesma told KXAN her case resulted in a judgement in her favor in March. She said she recently learned the hospital is appealing in a higher court.
“To have this hanging over me it’s created so much stress,” Ledesma – who also said she’s reached out to lawmakers – said during an interview.