Bill Description: House Bill 383 would reduce the amount of time that a medical service provider or its agent has to file a lien against a nonpaying patient with medical insurance.
Does it give government any new, additional, or expanded power to prohibit, restrict, or regulate activities in the free market? Conversely, does it eliminate or reduce government intervention in the market?
House Bill 383 would amend several sections of Idaho code related to medical debt and associated liens. The bill is trying to clarify and correct some of the problems created by the "Idaho patient act" (House Bill 515, 2020), but the solutions will likely cause more problems than they resolve.
The first troubling change proposed by House Bill 383 is to amend Section 45-701, Idaho Code, to replace the term "reasonable charges for" medical care with "reasonable value of" that care.
Value is subjective and the government should not be second-guessing the appropriateness of charges specified in a contract based on its own interpretation of value. To be blunt, how much a purchaser of goods and/or services agrees to pay for the goods and services provided is none of the government's business.
Under this legislation, a medical service provider or its agent would be unable to obtain a lien based on the charges specified in the relevant contracts and will instead be limited to the court's subjective interpretation of the value of the goods and services provided.
House Bill 383 would also amend Section 45-702, Idaho Code, which currently provides a medical service provider or its agent up to 90 days after the conclusion of treatment to file a lien for nonpayment.
Under the changes made by this bill, this 90-day limit would apply only to patients without insurance. Providers could file a lien against patients with insurance only "during the first thirty (30) days that an extraordinary collection action … may be timely commenced."
This "extraordinary collection" period is poorly defined for numerous reasons. For one thing, the lenguage requires the patient to receive certain documentation even if the patient has no permanent address (or has misrepresented it.)
Much like the "Idaho patient act" itself, the changes proposed by House Bill 383 will make it more difficult (if not impossible) for a medical service provider or its agent to take the steps necessary to recover funds from those who refuse to pay their bills.
A functioning free market requires that providers of goods and/or services have both the right and the ability to compel purchasers of goods and services to honor their contractual obligations and pay their bills.
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