Vermilion: Addressing high medical bills, smoking rates

Posted by: Lydia Kirschner  | Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Indiana is recognized as a top state in the country for our infrastructure, fiscal responsibility and strong economy. Unfortunately, we do not rank as well when it comes to health care costs, with Hoosiers spending more annually on medical expenses than the average American and smoking rates continuing to rise. This session, I join House lawmakers working to drive down healthcare costs by stopping surprise, out-of-network billing and reducing youth smoking.

While 41% of Americans are worried about rent or mortgages, 67% are increasingly worried about being able to afford surprise medical bills, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Some Hoosier patients are visiting facilities they know are in-network, but later receive a bill that includes the cost of an out-of-network provider and is much higher than they anticipated. Referred to as surprise, out-of-network billing, this can happen for a number of reasons. For example, the only anesthesiologist available that day could be out-of-network and insurance had not come to an agreement on reimbursement amounts with this doctor.

A proposal for a new law would help consumers by requiring patients to be billed at in-network rates if they visit an in-network hospital or facility. As this bill goes through the legislative process, lawmakers are continuously working with providers, insurance companies and health care industry professionals to fix this issue and protect patients from surprise medical bills.

Another piece of legislation would align Indiana with federal law by raising the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21, including e-cigarettes and vaping products. According to the Indiana State Department of Health, around 3,100 Indiana youth become new daily smokers each year. It is estimated that approximately 151,000 Hoosiers currently under the age of 18 will ultimately die prematurely from smoking, unless smoking rates are reduced.

Under this bill, penalties for retailers would also be stiffened for selling these products to those under 21. This legislation is important for young adults throughout our state; however, it could also prove especially helpful for our community. While the state has about a 22% rate of adult smokers, Grant County has approximately 31%. This bill could go a long way in lowering youth smoking rates in our community.

From ensuring consumers are protected against surprise expenses, to encouraging young adults to avoid smoking, these policies could help Hoosiers throughout the state. For questions on these public health bills, or others, please reach out to me at 317-234-9499 or h31@iga.in.gov

 

-30-

State Rep. Ann Vermilion (R-Marion) represents House District 31,
which includes all of Blackford County and portions of Delaware,
Grant and Wells counties.
Click here to download a high-resolution photo.