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Insurance bill step in right direction

The state Department of Insurance has made a good consumer-protection move by requiring insurance companies to keep their directories of health-care providers up to date.

The rule, which takes effect in January, will help shield patients from surprise medical bills if a provider no longer is part of a particular insurance network, and will help people shop for coverage that offers a suitable range of in-network doctors from which to choose.

Insurers will have to update their directories at least every three months, and must notify customers within 15 business days if a doctor or facility leaves the network. Keeping the rolls up to date comes with a powerful incentive: If a provider is listed as in-network at the time of service but turns out not to have been, an insurer can’t pass along the additional costs to a consumer.

The rule also requires insurance carriers to note which providers are accepting new patients and give consumers who request it a nonbinding estimate of how much it would cost to receive care from an out-of-network provider…

There still will remain many potential points of confusion for consumers; insurance agreements are full of fine print. But this at least is a good step.

The Columbus Dispatch