Okla. Senate Committee Passes Healthcare Collection Bill

A bill advanced in the Oklahoma state legislature yesterday that would prohibit healthcare providers from reporting unpaid debts to a credit reporting agency or placing them with a collection agency unless the patient was provided with a “good faith estimate” of the cost of the services prior to them being rendered.

A copy of SB548, which was introduced by state Sen. Julie Daniels, a Republican, can be accessed by clicking here. The bill passed a vote in the Senate Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee yesterday by a count of 12 to one.

In the event a patient is not able to be provided with a good faith estimate prior to being treated — such as in the case of an emergency — the healthcare provider would not be allowed to charge more than 150% of the Medicare rates for the services that are provided.

The estimate will need to be on its own form, “written in a readable font, plain language and shall be prominently and conspicuously displayed on the first page of the document in which it is contained,” according to the bill.

Failure to comply with the provisions of the bill would be grounds for dismissal of any collection lawsuit or garnishment action and may be asserted as an affirmative defense to such an action.

For healthcare providers that do not report to credit reporting agencies or place debts with collection agencies, the bill does not apply to them, Sen. Daniels said in a published media report. The objective of the bill is to create “intelligent” healthcare customers who will shop for competitive prices, forcing healthcare providers to charge less and bring down healthcare costs, Sen. Daniels said.

If passed by the Oklahoma legislature, the bill would go into effect on November 1.

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