Prescription bottle

New Jersey legislators are slated to hammer out details on bills that focus on out-of-network medical charges, opioid medications and the manufacturing of controlled dangerous substances.

Legislators will meet Monday to work on a bill that would protect consumers from getting charged for “surprise” out-of-network medical expenses, an effort that has been in the works for more than nine years.

Lawmakers have had to re-introduce the bill several times as health care providers, doctors, insurance companies and consumer protection groups have been unable to compromise on how to best enact legislation that would appease all stakeholders.

Parties must agree on how a law would reduce balance billing, or extra medical billing, which often falls squarely on the shoulders of patients and their families.

Several other states, including New York and California, have laws in place to protect consumers from getting billed for things such as an unexpected medication or a consultation from an out-of-network specialist during surgery.

Supporters of previous versions of the bill have stated about 168,000 consumers in New Jersey are charged large sums of money for unexpected medical bills every year.

Out-of-network issues have resulted in an additional $1 billion charged to New Jersey’s 5 million privately insured consumers in the form of higher premiums, according to a report from New Jersey Policy Perspective, a political think-tank.

The Out-of-Network Consumer Protection, Transparency, Cost Containment and Accountability Act will be reviewed in an Assembly committee hearing Monday.

Also Monday, the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee is set to consider a bill introduced last month by Assemblymen John Armato and Vincent Mazzeo, both D-Atlantic, that would require opioid prescription bottles to include sticker warnings about the risks of addiction and overdose.

Another Armato and Mazzeo bill appearing before Assembly members Monday would criminalize the manufacture, sale and possession of U-47700, known as U-4 or “Pink.” The synthetic opioid has been classified as a controlled dangerous substance and is reported to be about eight times stronger than heroin.

There have been 46 confirmed deaths associated with the drug in the country since 2015, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

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Contact: 609-272-7022 Twitter @ACPressNLeonard

Previously interned and reported for, The Asbury Park Press, The Boston Globe

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