Health reform task force meets with Utahns affected by large hospital bills, discusses balance billing

SALT LAKE CITY -- Even if individuals have insurance, a visit to the emergency room could cost them thousands of dollars.

Utah State Rep. James Dunnigan (R-Taylorsville), wants to change the possibility that an individual could be billed a significant amount of money, with a notion called "balance billing."

When a person is unconscious or in severe pain, they are taken to the nearest emergency room which may not be in their insurance network, resulting in a larger bill than if the patient was in a position to choose what medical center they went to.

Dunnigan said that increase in costs can affect Utah residents dearly.

"I have talked to dozens of people, probably hundreds now, that have been damaged by this," Dunnigan told Fox 13. "I know with one health plan, there's over 2,000 Utahns over the past two years that have been impacted by this, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars."

A health reform task force and Dunnigan met Tuesdays with some Utah residents who have been affected.

Dunnigan said he wants insurance companies to pay a little more to out of network hospitals, in exchange for hospitals to agree to not pay the patients afterward.

Intermountain Healthcare released the following statement to Fox 13 on balance billing:

"Balance billing occurs when an insurance company will not pay for much of the care a patient receives while obtaining emergency services.

Intermountain Healthcare has contracts with every major insurance company in Utah and nationally, except for one company, to avoid situations such as this. Intermountain has been in negotiations to reach an agreement with this last insurer to cover the cost of needed emergency care for its members, and it is anticipated that a resolution will be reached soon.

Of note, for any individuals in situations who need help in paying their medical bills, Intermountain offers financial assistance. Last year, Intermountain helped patients in more than 240,000 cases to pay their bills. "

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