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Utah families speak out about huge medical costs in “balance billing”

SALT LAKE CITY — Patients are begging Utah lawmakers to get hospitals to stop balance billing.

Centerville resident Lisa Ray has insurance, but she owes $27,000 after her son had to have emergency surgery and they went to an out-of-network hospital.

“We’ve submitted two appeals which have been denied, and have been sent to collections,” said Ray. “It has been life-altering,” she told the state legislature’s Health Reform Task Force on Tuesday.

“This could happen to any of you if they take you to the emergency room,” said Lucy Fawcett, who has a $15,000 bill after she broke her leg skiing.

One couple say they’ve worked tooth and nail to reduce a surprising $84,000 medical bill down to a few thousand dollars.

Now a new bill would eliminate balance billing for emergency room visits in Utah. Taylorsville Representative Jim Dunnigan says these should be special cases because of the urgent nature of the situation.

“The most egregious piece of it where many times you don’t have a choice where you’re going, you might even be unconscious, and you end up with this huge bill,” he said.

His bill should be introduced in the 2019 general session. He tried it in 2017, too.