New Patient Rights Bill Signed by the Governor

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By: TAHP | Thursday, June 8, 2023

In a significant achievement for patient rightsSB 490 was signed into law this week by Governor Greg Abbott. Jamie Dudensing, CEO of TAHP, joined bill authors Senator Bryan Hughes and Representative Caroline Harris, and other advocacy groups for the signing event.

How it works: The new law establishes a crucial safeguard by prohibiting hospitals from sending patients to debt collection without first providing them with an itemized bill. This ensures that patients have an opportunity to review and dispute any charges they believe to be inaccurate or unfair.

Behind the story: The widespread medical debt collection crisis is an issue that negatively affects countless individuals and families across Texas and the nation—highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive health care reforms, including policies addressing billing and price transparency.

  • Approximately a third of the 100 million American adults in the U.S. with health care debt owe money for hospitalization, according to a poll conducted by KFF. Nearly half of these individuals owe a minimum of $5,000, while about a quarter have debts exceeding $10,000.
  • Of the nation’s 20 most populous counties, none have a higher concentration of medical debt than Tarrant County, home to Fort Worth. Second is Dallas County, credit bureau data shows.
  • Health care debt negatively affects future access to needed medical or dental care. One in seven adults with health care debt say they have been denied care by a provider due to unpaid bills. In addition, adults with health care debt are more than twice as likely as those without debt to say that they or someone they live with have postponed or skipped getting needed health care because of the cost.

Making progress: TAHP stood in support of this bill to protect patients from unfair debt collection, a refile from the 87th Texas Legislature, for two sessions.

The bottom line: By granting patients access to itemized bills, SB 490 empowers patients to be proactive in managing their health care expenses and protects Texans from abuses in debt collection processes. The passage and signing of this bill underscores the dedication of lawmakers and advocates to prioritize patient well-being and ensure transparency in health care prices and billing.

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