March 9, 2022
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Bill increasing surprise billing protections (HB 1688) passed the Legislature and is on its way to Governor Inslee’s office for signing. Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler called for the legislation to help align Washington’s recent Balance Billing Protection Act with the unsurprisingly new federal law that went into effect Jan. 1, 2022.
“We’ve heard so many heartbreaking stories from consumers about their battles with surprise medical bills,” Commissioner Kreidler said. “I am incredibly proud of the bipartisan law that we created several years ago and that the federal government has followed in our footsteps. Now we have the best of both laws. I am very grateful to Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle, Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, Senator Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver and Senator Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor for their leadership on this critical issue. ”
The federal No Surprises Act extends surprise billing protections to all consumers, including people with self-funded health plans and federal employees. It also expands the types of services protected against surprise billing. Congress has given these states strong surprise billing protections, including Washington added flexibility in how they align new federal law with state protections.
House Bill 1688 will protect consumers from balance billing for a broader set of health services, including behavioral health emergencies treated outside of a hospital emergency room in settings such as crisis triage centers and mobile crisis response team services. It also prohibits health insurers or medical providers from asking a patient to waive these essential protections.