Governor Phil Murphy today signed into law landmark legislation that will help keep health care affordable for New Jersey residents by protecting them from surprise medical bills for out-of-network health care.

At least with state-regulated health insurance  plans covered by the plan, consumers will no longer have to pay any more than they would for in-network care unless they are informed of those added costs in advance and consent to pay them.  And added out-of-network charges could never be imposed for receiving needed medical care in an emergency situation. Consumers would remain free to obtain care from out-of-network providers but those bills would no longer come as a surprise.

Other insurance plans that fall under federal law and are thus not subject to regulation by the state, will be able to opt into the law, which takes effect 90 days from today.

The legislation, A-2039, is known as the Out-of-Network Consumer Protection, Transparency, Cost Containment and Accountability Act, and the name aptly describes what it does.

For more detail, read my earlier blog posts.  HERE and HERE.

The signing came just a few says after the Rutgers University Center for State Health Policy released poll results findings that 14%, or nearly one in seven, of the respondents or their families were hit with a large medical bill in the past year from a health care provider they did not choose.  That translates to an estimated 428,743 New Jersey families being hit with a large bill that they did not expect and quite possibly could not afford.

The Rutgers findings follow on those of NJ Policy Perspective’s 2016 report, which estimated that surprise medical bills cost New Jerseyans about $1 billion per year–the $420 million billed plus the increased cost of premiums for everyone.

NJ Appleseed, as a member of the NJ Healthcare Coalition, has been working to promote the Out-of-Network bill for years, consistent with its mission in the area of healthcare, which is to impact public policy to secure quality and affordable health care services for all, regardless of income, social status, race or ethnicity

The signing of the bill is the culmination of a very good week for health care consumers.

Just two days earlier, Murphy signed two other pieces of legislation that are meant to keep health care affordable to state residents in the face of efforts by the Trump administration to dismantle the gains achieved in the number of insureds as a result of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

A-3380, the NJ Health Insurance Market Preservation Act, creates a state individual mandate to purchase health insurance, to replace the federal mandate which was repealed in the 2017 tax overhaul and expires at the end of the year. S-1878, the NJ Health Insurance Premium Security Act, seeks federal funding for a reinsurance program. Both measures will help prop up the insurance market to keep premiums from rising too high.

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