AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On a 146-0 vote, legislators in the Texas House approved a bill this week to further prevent patients with state-regulated health plans from getting surprise medical bills. 

Senate Bill 1264, filed by State Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, and sponsored by State Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, in the Texas House, prevents patients from getting balance billed in situations where they unknowingly and unintentionally receive out-of-network care. Balance billing occurs when a doctor, hospital or health care provider is out of network. SB 1264 also creates an arbitration process that removes patient-initiated mediation and expands the Texas Department of Insurance mediation program between health plans and out-of-network providers. 

“This is an incredibly supportive step in lowering skyrocketing out-of-pocket healthcare costs in Texas,” Dr. Oliverson said in a statement. 

Lawmakers on the national level are also working on the issue of surprise medical bills. On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, held a hearing with representatives from different health groups to explore approaches to federal legislation that protects patients from being caught in the middle of health plans and providers. Doggett also authored the End Surprise Billing Act of 2019. 

President Donald Trump has called for an end to surprise medical bills and his administration backs bipartisan proposals. 

The Texas Senate passed the bill in April. It will have to approve the changes by the Texas House and after that, it will be sent to the governor’s desk.