FILE - OH Miami Valley Hospital, Dayton 8-7-2019

Miami Valley Hospital is seen Aug. 7, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio.

(The Center Square) – The Ohio General Assembly made history Tuesday and took a step to reduce health care costs for Ohioans. All that’s left is a signature from Gov. Mike DeWine.

When the Ohio Senate voted to support Substitute House Bill 388, which passed the Ohio House in May, it put into motion what would be a prohibition on surprise or balance billing. If DeWine signs the bill, Ohio will become the first state in the nation to ban such practices.

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Adam Holmes, R-Zanesville, would stop the practice of patients being charged for out-of-network services at the out-of-network rate when they are performed at an in-network facility.

Often, according to Holmes, families are left blindsided with a large bill not covered by insurance.

It also creates a process to negotiate payments through what Holmes termed a baseball-style arbitration between the provider and the insurance company “without the patient being stuck in the middle,” he said.

“House Bill 388 protects consumers and it puts their needs first,” Holmes said. “This free market approach not only takes patients out of the middle of contract disputes, but will help reduce overall healthcare costs.”

According to a news release from Holmes in May, Stanford University researchers showed surprise billing is on the rise across America and so is the expense, with average costs tripling over a seven-year period to more than $2,000 per bill. A recent poll found that one third of privately insured Ohioans report having received a surprise medical bill.

The legislation was applauded by the Ohio Association of Health Plans as an unprecedented compromise across Ohio health care stakeholders.

“Both chambers of the Ohio legislature have now achieved something that no other state has done – passing a surprise billing ban that is supported by health plans, health providers, advocacy groups and business organizations,” Kelly O’Reilly, OAHP president, said. “House Bill 388 protects families and businesses from unexpected bills they cannot afford to pay. As we continue to fight through a global health crisis, we thank our senators for joining their House colleagues to protect Ohioans.”

Regional Editor

An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.