Feb 13, 2019

Texas' overwhelmed plan to help with surprise medical bills

Texas has a way to help patients appeal their surprise medical bills. It's not open to everyone. But it's still overwhelmed and unable to keep up with demand.

How it works: Texas operates a mediation program for patients hit with a surprise out-of-network bill, and it has expanded access to the program twice over the past 4 years.

  • The Texas Tribune lays out the details: Once patients file their bill with the state board, any bill collections are paused and insurers and providers have 30 days to work something out.
  • Most cases are resolved there. The others are referred to a formal mediation process.

By the numbers: Demand for the program skyrocketed last year, per the Tribune.

  • Texas received just 43 mediation requests in 2013. Last year, it received more than 4,500 complaints, totaling almost $9 million in hospital charges. Officials are expecting more than 8,000 new requests this year.

That's more than the commission can keep up with, and it's been trying to grow while still managing a workload that's very time sensitive for patients.

  • "It's somewhat like trying to rebuild the firehouse while you're answering calls to put out fires," Texas insurance commissioner Kent Sullivan said.

Go deeper: Why ending surprise medical bills is harder than it looks

Go deeper

Mass shooting in Milwaukee: What we know so far

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in 2012. Photo: John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images

Six people died in a shooting at the Milwaukee Molson Coors brewery complex on Wednesday, including the shooter, Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters at an evening press conference with local police.

What's happening: Police said "there is no active threat" just before 6 pm ET, but noted the scene remains active. Police chief Alfonso Morales told reporters that officers have "more than 20 buildings we have to secure" at the complex and they do not currently have all employees accounted for, as more than 1,000 were at the complex during the shooting.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 11 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Live updates: CDC confirms possible community spread of coronavirus

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

U.S. clinicians have found the novel coronavirus in a person who did not recently return from a foreign country nor have contact with a confirmed case, the CDC said Tuesday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,700 people and infected over 81,000 others. By Wednesday morning, South Korea had the most cases outside China, with 1,261 infections. Europe's biggest outbreak is in Italy, where 374 cases have been confirmed.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 27 mins ago - Health

Trump assigns Pence to lead U.S. coronavirus response


President Trump announced at a press briefing Wednesday evening that he'll be putting Vice President Mike Pence in charge of leading the administration's response to the coronavirus.

The big picture: In the wake of a market sell-off and warnings from health officials that there's a real threat of the coronavirus spreading in the U.S., Trump sought to reassure the nation and Wall Street that the U.S. is "ready" for whatever comes next.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy