The Oklahoma Senate has passed a bill 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.
The bill, SB548, was approved in the state Senate by a vote of 38-9. It has now moved to the state’s House of Representatives for its consideration. The bill was originally introduced by state Sen. Julie Daniels, a Republican. She is using the statistic that 50% of personal bankruptcies are caused by medical debts and that patients should know before receiving treatment how much it is likely to cost so they are not hit with surprise medical bills afterwards.
“If you plan to report medical debt to a credit bureau, garnish wages or use the services of a collection agency against somebody who has received health care, then you are going to need to provide them a good-faith estimate of that care before that care is rendered,” she said in a published report.
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 165% 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.
If passed by the House and signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt, it would go into effect on Nov. 1.