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Bipartisan Ban on 'Balance Billing' Has Rare Endorsement of N.H. Insurance Department

Allison Quantz for NHPR

Have you ever gone to an ER that you thought was in-network, but ended up getting stuck with a surprise bill because the doctor you saw there was out-of-network? That’s known as “balance billing,” and New Hampshire is one of a growing number of states looking at ways to protect patients from these unexpected — and often large — invoices.

Rep. David Luneau, of Hopkinton, is behind a bill that tries to make sure patients aren’t left on the hook in most of these cases. After an initial hearing earlier this month, it’s getting a closer look from the House Commerce committee Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s just completely unfair for patients who are covered by their health insurance plan to all of a sudden receive unexpected and unavoidable bills from a doctor, from a healthcare provider, where they would expect those services to be covered under their plan,” Luneau said.

Luneau first tried introducing a prohibition on balance billing 2016, but it didn’t go far — running into opposition from the New Hampshire Medical Society, among others. 

But Luneau’s hoping to have better luck this time, after a study committee spent the fall trying to come up with a compromise that balances patient protections with concerns from those in the healthcare field. The bill on deck this session also has a rare endorsement from the New Hampshire Insurance Department, an agency that doesn’t typically advocate for or against individual pieces of legislation.

“What the legislation does is hold the patient harmless,” Luneau said. “So, no matter what happens between the healthcare provider, the insurance carrier and the physician, the patient is not caught in the middle.”

Casey McDermott is a senior news editor at New Hampshire Public Radio. Throughout her time as an NHPR reporter and editor, she has worked with colleagues across the newsroom to deepen the station’s accountability coverage, data journalism and audience engagement across platforms.

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