health cost

Just as a new year rings in resolutions by some people to change something in their lives, it also frequently brings new state laws.

New laws this year range from an effort to make health care costs more transparent to offering another option for gun permits.

The Tennessee General Assembly approved the “Tennessee Right to Shop Act,” which takes effect this year, according to a press release by the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus.

The act is meant to provide patients with more transparency about the costs of health care services in their network by requiring insurance providers to offer a database which discloses the costs of non-emergency outpatient services or procedures. The new law applies to all health plans entered into or renewed in Tennessee on or after Jan. 1, 2020, with a consumer incentives option becoming effective Jan. 1, 2021.

“Approximately 40 to 50 percent of all healthcare services are shoppable, including physical and occupational therapy services, radiology and imaging services, laboratory services and infusion therapy,” said Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield), the bill’s sponsor.

Insurers may offer incentives to enrollees for choosing the lower-cost option, such as providing consumers up to 50 percent of the difference for going to a less expensive provider, the Senate GOP said. Other incentives may include a cash payment or credit toward in-network deductible.

Several other new laws are taking effect this year, including a couple more health care related changes, according to the Senate GOP. Those include:

Hospital billing – The legislature is requiring more transparency in hospital billing by restricting statements from including any language that refers to specialty healthcare services rendered at the hospital. Sen. Shane Reeves sponsored the bill in the Senate.

Often, the Senate GOP said, bills include charges for supplies and equipment labeled as specialty service charges which are mistaken by patients as the total amount being billed by their physician.

Proton Therapy Access Act – This law seeks to provide greater access to care for state employees. Those diagnosed with cancer may receive hypofractionated proton therapy if the physician and patient believe that it would be more beneficial to their treatment plan.

Elder abuse – The Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act of 2019 is part of a series of laws passed by lawmakers over the last three years. This year’s bill creates enhanced offenses for abusing an elderly or vulnerable adult when the abuse is committed with a deadly weapon or results in serious bodily injury. The act expands the availability of protective orders for elderly and vulnerable adults and broadens who has the authority to seek an order of protection on behalf of the elderly victim.

Volunteer firefighters – There is a new volunteer firefighter equipment and training grant program, with funds being evenly distributed to the three grand divisions of Tennessee to certified volunteer fire departments.

New handgun permit – This creates a more affordable and accessible concealed carry permit so that more Tennesseans are able to exercise their right to self-defense, the Senate GOP said. The current carry permit will not be changed; rather the old permit will be called an enhanced permit. The new permit aims to ease the application process by increasing affordability and expanding the qualified training programs.

The new law allows applicants to take a hunter education safety course or other firearms training courses to fulfill the training requirement for the permit, including free online videos or classes. All classes must be approved by the Department of Safety.

The new concealed carry permit application is $65, compared to $100 for the enhanced permit. Unlike the enhanced permit, the new concealed permit does not allow a person to carry on higher education campuses.

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