Washington lawmakers look at shielding people from surprise ambulance costs

 

December 7, 2023



By Laurel Demkovich

People in Washington often face high costs for ambulance rides, despite not having a choice about the service, an October state Office of the Insurance Commissioner report found.

State lawmakers and health officials are now looking at ways to change that, including by prohibiting ambulance operators from billing consumers for costs their insurance doesn’t cover or by setting fixed reimbursement rates for service.

“I fully expect this will be a focus in the upcoming session,” Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, told the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee on Thursday.

The committee, which Cleveland chairs, received a briefing on the Office of the Insurance Commissioner study. The report looks at “balance billing” for ambulance services in Washington. Balance billing is when a company charges the patient the difference between what their insurance paid and the total cost of services.

In 2022, lawmakers passed a bill to strengthen protections for consumers against surprise medical bills, including for most emergency services and air ambulance trips.

 

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