Nevada Governor Signs Patient Protections for Preexisting Conditions and Surprise Billing

by | May 17, 2019 AT 8:13 AM
People wait in line at a clinic. (AP/Eric Gay)

By John Sadler

Gov. Steve Sisolak signed two patient protection bills into law on Wednesday, aiming to both end surprise medical billing -- emergency services given to a patient by an out-of-network provider -- and put protections for pre-existing conditions into state statute.

The bills -- Assembly Bills 469 and 170, respectively -- were both delivered to the governor earlier this month and passed both houses with overwhelming majorities. Sisolak signed them in a news conference with health care advocates present.

Sisolak said that pre-existing condition protection is necessary to protect Nevadans in the case of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Sisolak said that more than 1 million Nevadans live with pre-existing conditions and could face increased health care costs if the ACA were repealed. "That's why today we're taking an important step as a state to guarantee that no Nevadan will lose health coverage because of a pre-existing condition, no matter what happens in Washington," he said.

In a statement, the Nevada Democratic Party praised the bill, calling it a bipartisan achievement.

"While the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress are more focused on dangerous, partisan efforts to undermine our health care system, our leaders passed bipartisan legislation to make permanent these life-saving protections and put in place a procedure to help patients better resolve problems with their insurers," Assemblyman William McCurdy, D-Las Vegas and the state party chairman, said in a statement.

Sisolak said the issue of surprise billing can hit a patient with a large-scale expense that is not expected. In medical emergencies, he said, people are rarely concerned with ensuring the hospital they go to is in their network. "These bills can sometimes run $10,000 or more and can leave a working family in financial ruin," he said.

Now, patients who find themselves in those situations will only have to pay the copayment, coinsurance or deductible required by their policy. The insurer for the patient will pay 108-115% of the cost if it had been in an agreement with the provider within the past two years. If there was no previous agreement, the insurer will make an offer for what they determine is "reasonable." If not accepted by the provider, the parties go to arbitration.

Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, has long worked on the issue of surprise billing and was visibly emotional at some points during the conference.

"I can't thank everyone enough for all the hours, for all the arguments, for all the disagreements and for all the compromise," she said.

Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, touted the different groups that worked on the bill. "This bill represents patients, providers, patient advocates coming together to try to come up with something that works for Nevada," Frierson said.

(c)2019 the Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.)