December 02, 2022

Congressman Castro, Senator Warren Introduce Bill to Prevent Surprise Billing at Military Hospitals

WASHINGTON This week, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) introduced the Financial Relief for Civilians Treated at Military Hospitals Act, legislation that would ensure that Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) run by the Department of Defense (DoD) can continue to enhance military readiness without racking up huge bills for civilians receiving emergency medical care.

“For years, civilian patients treated at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio have faced sky-high medical bills for lifesaving trauma care,” said Congressman Castro. “Domestic military hospitals are designed to train military medical personnel for the battlefield, and the federal government should cover their operating costs. The Financial Relief for Civilians Treated at Military Hospitals Act would erase millions of dollars in prior civilian debt and prevent military hospitals from charging for emergency care going forward.”

“Unexpected medical emergencies should not leave people drowning in debt,” said Senator Warren. “The Financial Relief for Civilians Treated at Military Hospitals Act would ensure that civilians in need of life saving care at military treatment facilities can do so without the fear of taking on overwhelming financial burdens.”

Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) is one of two Level I Trauma Centers in San Antonio and serves nearly half of civilian patients treated by MTFs. For years, Congressman Castro has worked to help constituents who faced extraordinarily high medical bills after receiving trauma care at BAMC. In 2020, Congressman Castro secured an amendment in the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that provided the DOD with the flexibility to waive civilian medical bills. Despite this flexibility, a July 2022 report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that military hospitals do not “consistently use or communicate options for financial relief for civilian emergency patients.” The report also found that DoD failed to accurately track debts collected from civilians. Two thirds of the civilian emergency patients who received treatment did not have insurance, leaving them highly vulnerable to massive medical bills. Of the 26,696 civilian medical debt cases GAO reviewed, only .1% had their debt reduced.

The Financial Relief for Civilians Treated at Military Hospitals Act would eliminate previous debts for medical services rendered to civilians at MTFs who are not covered under TRICARE and prohibits an MTF from charging a civilian or their private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid for any emergency medical treatment. 

To view the bill text, click here.

To view a one-page summary of the bill, click here.