- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 26, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri lawmakers on Tuesday passed legislation to change how medical expenses are handled in court, sending the measure to Gov. Jay Nixon.

House members voted 95-57 in favor of the bill, which would allow only the actual costs and not the value of medical expenses to be considered as evidence in civil lawsuits.

That covers only the amount charged by hospitals or other health care providers for treatment, Republican House handler and attorney Rep. Joe Don McGaugh said. He said the aim is to prevent “double-dipping.”

Juries now can review both out-of-pocket expenses and what’s considered the value of medical treatments, which can be higher than what’s billed to a patient and, if the individual has health care coverage, an insurance company.

The measure is backed by two of the state’s top business organizations.

The measure drew bipartisan opposition, including from Senate Democrats who staged an overnight filibuster before the legislation passed that chamber in February.

Critics say the bill could mean victims in personal-injury lawsuits receive less money and it could instead benefit insurance companies and those at fault, such as businesses.

Rep. Mike Colona, a St. Louis Democrat and attorney, called the bill “insurance industry welfare.”

Republican Rep. Jay Barnes, a Jefferson City attorney, said the legislation could unfairly result in those covered by insurance receiving less money in such lawsuits if they pay less out of pocket for medical treatment. He described that as “discriminating” against those who are insured.

“This bill gores your constituents,” Barnes said to lawmakers on the House floor. “They just don’t know it yet because they haven’t been t-boned by a drunk driver.”

The measure now heads to Nixon.

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Medical expenses bill is SB 847.

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Online:

Missouri Senate: https://senate.mo.gov

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