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On World AIDS Day, New Mexico activists say more money is needed for prevention; ND farmers still navigate corporate land-ownership policy maze; Unpaid caregivers in ME receive limited financial grants.

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken urges Israel to protect civilians amid Gaza truce talks, New York Rep. George Santos defends himself as his expected expulsion looms and CDC director warns about respiratory illness as flu season begins.

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Congress has iced the Farm Bill, but farmer advocates argue some portions are urgent, the Hoosier State is reaping big rewards from wind and solar, and opponents react to a road through Alaska's Brooks Range, long a dream destination for hunters and anglers.

Proposal on 'Surprise' Ambulance Bills Moves through CA Legislature

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Wednesday, July 12, 2023   

Sometimes, patients who call an ambulance end up getting stuck with a big bill because the ambulance company does not have a contract with their health plan.

Assembly Bill 716 is designed to prevent surprise out-of-network bills. It passed the California State Assembly and is now making its way through the state Senate committees.

Katie Van Deynze, policy and legislative advocate for Health Access California, said people should not have to worry about the cost if they need to call an ambulance.

"Consumers have no control in whether the ambulance that shows up is in their network, resulting in many surprise bills," Van Deynze pointed out. "We hear from Californians across the state that they might not even call the ambulance out of legitimate fear of the bill, putting their health at risk."

The bill would guarantee patients with insurance would only have to pay the in-network cost-sharing amount. People without insurance would be charged the Medi-Cal or Medicare rate for that service. And if the ambulance provided does not have a contract with a health plan, the ambulance company would be paid a rate set by local authorities.

Jennifer Reisz, a mother from Fresno who testified in favor of the bill, said when her daughter was kicked by a horse, she needed an ambulance and spent three days in the hospital, only to be hit with a large out-of-network bill.

"A month later, she received a bill from the ambulance company totaling $4,600, but our insurance company paid less than half of the bill, leaving my daughter responsible for $2,400," Reisz recounted. "She was distraught because she didn't know how she was going to pay for this bill."

The legislation also includes consumer protections against debt collections, including wage garnishment. The last provision has drawn criticism from representatives of the state's debt collection industry.


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