Kilili: Bill protects patients from surprise medical charges

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (Office of the CNMI Congressional Delegate) — Patients and their families in the Marianas will be protected from surprise medical bills under terms of legislation approved by the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee Tuesday. U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, a member of the committee, asked Chairman Robert Scott to clarify that the Marianas and U.S. territories were covered by the Ban Surprise Billing Act, before a final vote was taken.

“I want to clarify for my colleague, Mr. Sablan, and others, that H.R. 5800 does apply to territories,” Chairman Scott said. “This is because the bill relies on a definition of ‘state’ that applies to the territories. Therefore, the protections against surprise billing under this bill will be afforded equally to patients and families in those areas.”

Congressman Sablan thanked the chairman for putting that clarification on the record during the committee mark-up. “This is not just an issue for people on the mainland,” Sablan said. “I know constituents in the Marianas, who thought they were covered by their health insurance, only to find out later there were medical costs they had to pay out of pocket.”

Sablan said that emergency air ambulance service in the Marianas is one example of a cost that can be billed to patients, unexpectedly, after the fact.

Surprise billing is an issue that hits Republicans and Democrats alike. So, the Ban Surprise Billing Act gathered bipartisan support, when the committee voted Tuesday. The bill is also supported by consumer advocacy groups, including the American Association of Retired Persons or AARP.

Now that H.R. 5800 has been voted out of committee the bill can be considered by the entire House of Representatives.

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