The next legislative session in Texas doesn’t start for three months, but already lawmakers have announced plans to re-introduce legislation that would require healthcare providers to send an itemized bill to patients prior to pursuing any debt collection action. The announcement follows the publication of an article detailing hundreds of lawsuits filed in Central Texas by an unnamed hospital attempting to recover unpaid debts.
The bill in question, Senate Bill 2122, passed the Texas Senate last year, but did not make it out of the state House’s Public Health Committee before the legislative session ended. It was introduced by state Sen. Bryan Hughes and co-sponsored by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, who said in a published report that the measure should be taken up again because there are too many patients who do not understand why they are being charged what they are being charged by hospitals.
“Quite frankly, the only hook in it is: you didn’t send an itemized bill, you can’t collect,” Sen. Bettencourt said in the report. “I think people need to know what their billing is. And this isn’t a stringent requirement, because to generate the bill you have to have an itemized list anyway.”
The main provision of the bill said that before a healthcare provider pursued any debt collection action against an individual, the provider needed to issue a written itemized bill for all healthcare services and supplies provided to the patient during the visit to the provider. That bill must include the amount charged for each healthcare service and supply.
The report mentions other legislation that may be proposed once the Texas legislature reconvenes in January, including updates to the state’s Debt Collection Act to make sure individuals who are sued by healthcare providers have adequate protections, lawmakers said. About 10% of debt collection complaints received by the state’s Attorney General’s office were related to medical debt, according to the report.