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Law Passes To Stop Unfair Billing

This information is furnished by 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley R-Hohenwald, who represents Giles and five other area counties,

The State Senate unanimously has passed legislation that ends the practice of surprise or unexpected medical billing in Tennessee, also called balanced billing.

Balanced billing occurs when providers bill a patient for the difference between the amount they charge and the amount the patient’s insurance covers. The amount that insurers pay providers is almost always less than the providers’ “retail price.” Some providers will bill the patient for the difference or balance, thus it’s called balanced billing.

Senate Bill 1 ensures patients are not held responsible for balanced bills. Consumers will no longer get balanced bills when they seek emergency care or when they receive non-emergency care in an in-network hospital, but are unknowingly treated by an out-of-network physician or laboratory.

This is a patient protection piece of legislation, and the patient should not be held responsible for bills they’re unaware of.

Under the bill, patients will pay only the deductibles and co-payment amounts that they would pay under the in-network terms of their insurance plans.

The bill also creates an independent dispute resolution process between insurers and providers.

One problem Tennesseans worry about the most, especially from a patient perspective, is that of being able to afford an unexpected medical bill.

This legislation has been worked on for the past six years, and it fundamentally protects patients from getting a bill for which they didn’t know they’d be responsible. The bill mirrors the federal “No Surprises Act,” which took effect earlier this year.

Senate Finance Committee hears report regarding infrastructure needs and requests

The Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee received a report from the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) regarding state infrastructure needs and requests.

The General Assembly passed legislation in 1996 requiring TACIR to compile and maintain an inventory of infrastructure requests and present them to lawmakers each year.

The inventory, by law, is designed to support the development by state and local officials of goals, strategies and programs that could improve the quality of life for Tennesseans and enhance economic development statewide.

TACIR staff work with Tennessee’s nine developmental districts to gather information from state and local officials of public infrastructures needs and other projects that reflect the hopes and desires of communities.

This year’s report for 2020-2025 reflects about $61.9 billion in projects that fall into these categories. That’s an increase of $3.4 billion from the report delivered by TACIR last year.

Transportation, utilities, and education account for 89 percent of the projected $3.4 billion increase in conceptual projects which were in the inventory.

Transportation and utilities are always the largest categories of infrastructure inventoried and account for $2 billion in this report.

The education inventory increased by $987 million, mainly attributable to post-secondary education needs and reflects the building or renovation requests for K-12 schools.

The next largest increase was in the health, safety, and welfare category at $575 million. TACIR officials explained the bulk of these requests were for law enforcement and fire protection.

In addition, TACIR has projected an increase of $7 million for recreational projects.

TACIR’s staff is reviewing available federal funding for public infrastructure to see how it might meet some of these needs. They estimate the American Rescue Plan (ARP) will provide Tennessee state government with $3.9 billion and Tennessee local governments with $2.3 billion; while they project the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) could provide $8 billion for infrastructure projects.

In August 2021, Tennessee’s Financial Stimulus Accountability Group dedicated $1.35 billion of the state’s fiscal ARP recovery funds for water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure. The IIJA funds are under review but can be used for roads, bridges, broadband and other specific infrastructure needs.

Redistricting — The Senate has approved the House redistricting map after approving new Senate and Congressional maps.

Drawn by the House, the new House map has an overall population range of 9.9%, and splits 30 counties: nine in West Tennessee, nine in Middle Tennessee and 12 in East Tennessee. It includes six districts with no incumbents, and maintains the current number of majority-minority districts, which is 13. Six districts in the map remain exactly as they are today.

Election rules — The Senate approved SB 515, which expands the period of time political or campaign signs can be posted to “60 days before voting begins.”

On the same topic, the State and Local Government Committee has agreed to remove a provision in a bill related to election laws because that provision will run separately in a parallel bill. The committee amended SB 1664 so that it now simply prohibits a political party from requiring a person to pay a fee in order to run as that political party’s candidate for public office.

Previously, the bill also sought to require nonpartisan elections for chancellors, circuit court judges, criminal court judges, and judges of any other state trial court of record. That provision will run in a separate, stand-alone bill.

New jobs in Maury County — The composite decking, railing and cladding company Fiberon announced it will establish manufacturing and distribution operations in Columbia, Tenn., creating 310 new jobs over the next five years.

Founded in North Carolina in 1997, Fiberon is a leading U.S. manufacturer of wood-alternative decking, railing and cladding, and prides itself on serving customers with high-quality, eco-friendly products.

Today, the company employs more than 600 people across the U.S. through its bicoastal manufacturing and distribution operations in New London, North Carolina and Meridian, Idaho.

In the last five years, the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development has supported nearly 20 economic development projects in Maury County resulting in roughly 3,700 job commitments and $4.3 billion in capital investment.

I would like to congratulate Fiberon on its decision to locate this new facility in Maury County and create 310 new jobs.

Helping to foster job creation is a key part of the efforts of the legislature, and I am proud to partner with Governor Lee, TNECD and our local officials to help further that mission.

Hensley may be reached at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742, Nashville TN 37243 or call 615-741-3100 or fax 615-253-0231. His toll free telephone number is 1-800-449-8366 ext. 13100.

His district address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald TN 38462. His telephone number is 931-796-2018, his cell phone number is 931-212-8823 or E-mail: sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov

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