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A bill seeking to limit "surprise billing" for medical emergencies advanced to the Senate on Monday.

The House passed HB395 on a 39-34 vote to stop hospitals and doctors from charging the difference between what insurance companies are required to pay for emergency care under federal law, and what the hospital and doctors want.

In earlier committee testimony, Kalee Allred testified that as her husband was flown to Intermountain Hospital after an accident, she phoned her insurance company to make sure he was properly covered.

She found the hospital was not in her insurance network. But the insurance company told her not to worry: for emergencies, federal law requires it to pay the hospital the same amount it pays to its in-network hospitals. A few weeks later, Allred still received a $38,000 bill.

The bill, as amended, would use a national benchmark for typical charges to limit what hospitals and doctors may charge beyond what insurance companies are required to pay. "It's not unlimited … that's evil," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville.

­— Lee Davidson