AUSTIN (KXAN) – A Senate committee passed a bill Thursday that will end many surprise medical bills for Texans. If you get a medical bill under $1,000 and your insurance and your health care provider can’t decide who pays, the patient ends up footing the bill. It’s called balance billing, when your in-network doctor consults or gets a service from an out-of-network health care provider, the patient then gets the bill.

SB 481 passed 6-1 out of a Senate committee. Kelly Hancock, R – North Richland Hills, authored the bill.

“The practice of balance billing frequently leaves emergency care patients with medical bill sticker shock,” said Senator Hancock. “During a stressful life event like an emergency room visit or surgical procedure, patients shouldn’t have to worry about surprise, bank-breaking bills. We can and should provide a comprehensive mediation process that gives consumers some recourse.”

SB 481 eliminates the current $1,000 threshold for claims eligible for mediation. The bill next moves to the full 31-member Senate.