When President Trump gives his State of the Union address to Congress tonight, Donna Beckman, a Seabrook resident, will be listening in the audience.
Sen. Maggie Hassan invited Beckman to attend as her guest. Each member of Congress can invite one guest to the State of the Union address, and often politicians choose to bring someone who exemplifies a particular political issue to which they’re trying to draw attention.
Hassan invited Beckman to highlight the issue of “balance billing” – a practice where patients are charged for out-of-network medical care at in-network medical facilities. In many cases – including Beckman’s – patients don’t realize they have seen an out-of-network provider until they receive an invoice for their care.
Beckman helped to advocate for a new law limiting the practice of “balance billing” in New Hampshire. Now, Hassan is proposing similar legislation to protect patients from balance billing on a national level.
Beckman told NHPR’s Peter Biello that she’s honored to be Hassan's guest.
“It is very exciting to be in D.C. at this moment. There’s a lot of buzz and it’s very exciting to be a part of today and this evening,” she said.
As NHPR’s Casey McDermott reported, Beckman’s case involved a $1,648 bill that she received for care at Seabrook Emergency Room because the doctor who treated her there was not in her network. However, Beckman was not made aware of this reason until afterward. Ultimately, she had to pay just over $30 for the visit, but she says it was still difficult to sort out with her insurance company and the other company that was handling the billing.
“They certainly didn’t make it easy,” she said.
Beckman used her personal story to advocate for a new law protecting patients from balance billing, which passed last year after an extensive study process involving input from health industry officials and other patients who had experienced balance billing. Under the new law, insurance companies have to work out coverage disagreements, and they can involve the state insurance department if needed.
“I feel it's definitely a step in the right direction,” said Beckman of the bill that passed in New Hampshire.
She’s become an advocate for patients on the state level, and as a result, other New Hampshire residents have reached out to her when they’ve been in similar situations, getting billed inordinate amounts after routine visits for migraines or stitches.
She sais she’s heard, “just story after story, [of] how outrageous and betrayed people feel.”
Tune into NHPR at 8 p.m. on Feb. 5 for special coverage of the State of the Union address.