Don’t let them put profits over patients

Last Thursday the New Jersey Senate failed health care consumers.

Just two days after a report that Bayonne Medical Center charged a New Jersey man $17,000 to stitch a 2-inch cut, the Out-of-Network Consumer Protection Act had to be pulled by the bill’s sponsor when it became clear that key Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee were going to join with Republicans to oppose the bill. The Committee played into the hands of special interests in the health care industry at the expense of ordinary New Jersey families.

Senate Sponsor Joe Vitale’s reaction, as reported in the Star Ledger, was spot on. He asked the Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Nia Gill (D-Essex) to pull the bill “because of additional questions by members, and the gross misrepresentation of the facts by greed-driven special interests.” [1]

But the sway of greedy special interests is not confined to the Senate. While the bill did pass the Assembly Financial and Insurance Committee last month, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto has still not posted the bill for a floor vote.

So where is the leadership in the legislature to protect New Jersey consumers?

Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Prieto can make this right. Write them both today and urge them to make S20/A4444 a priority. Tell them to use their leadership posts to protect insured health care consumers from outrageous and unfair medical bills.

For over a year, New Jersey Citizen Action and our partners in the NJ for Health Care Coalition have worked with bill sponsors to craft a bill that will give consumers meaningful protections from surprise medical bills. The bill, considered the strongest of its kind in the nation, would require doctors and hospitals to disclose their out-of-network status before they treat patients, so that patients can knowingly move forward with treatment by an out-of-network provider, or look for an in-network option. In circumstances where a patient has no choice, such as an emergency or when being treated at an in-network facility, the bill bans providers from billing patients at the out-of-network rate.

Failure is not an option. Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Prieto must recognize that this issue will not just go away. Take action today to urge Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Prieto to show leadership and pass the Out-of-Network Consumer Protection Act.

[1] ‘Greed’ helped stall N.J. bill to curb surprise out-of-network medical costs: lawmaker. 12/11/15.