OPIC Highlights Insurance Consumer Protections from Texas 2019 Legislative Session

July 26, 2019

The Texas Office of Public Insurance Counsel (OPIC) has released a list highlighting some of insurance-related bills passed by the Texas Legislature this year that contain protections for consumers.

Some of the consumer protection bills passed by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott include:

Prohibiting Named Driver Policies – House Bill 259

HB 259 prohibits named driver policies. A named driver policy is an auto policy that does not cover household members that are not listed on the policy. This is different than most auto policies, which cover residents of the household even if they are not listed on the policy (unless other exclusions apply).

The requirement will apply to an auto insurance policy delivered, issued for delivery, or renewed on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

Requiring Flood Disclosures – Senate Bill 442

SB 442 requires insurers to let consumers know if their insurance policy does not cover flooding. Insurers are required to send the flood disclosure with the policy documents at both the initial issuance and the renewal of the policy.

The legislation impacts consumers with residential property and commercial property policies. It will apply to policies that are delivered, issued for delivery, or renewed on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

Ending Balance Billing – Senate Bill 1264

SB 1264 ends the practice of balance or surprise billing. Balance billing occurs when consumers get care or medical supplies from out-of-network healthcare providers, such as doctors, hospitals, or labs. Out-of-network healthcare providers do not have a contract with the consumer’s health plan. If a consumer’s health plan doesn’t pay the full amount of what the out-of-network healthcare provider charges, then the provider sends a bill to the consumer for the remaining amount. This remaining amount is known as a balance bill.

SB 1264 prevents balance billing when consumers don’t have the option to see a provider in their health plan’s network. This type of situation can happen when there is a medical emergency and the nearest hospital is out of network. It can also happen when there is an insufficient number of network providers or when patients go to an in-network hospital but are treated by doctors who are not in their health plan’s network.

SB 1264 also requires providers to give consumers notice if they choose to receive care outside of their health plan’s network.

Consumers enrolled in HMOs, PPOs, EPOs and certain state group plans (ERS group plan, TRS-Care, and TRS-ActiveCare) are impacted by the bill. It goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

Policy Documents in a Language Other than English – House Bill 1554

HB 1554 allows insurers to provide personal auto and residential property policy documents or related information in a language other than English in order to help consumers better understand their coverage. In a dispute or complaint, however, the English version of the policy controls.

The 86th Texas Legislative Session concluded on May 27.

Source: OPIC

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