Beginning this month, a new law that was years in the making bans certain unexpected medical bills.
However, advocates say it’s important for consumers to still be on the lookout for these charges and to know what steps to take if they get hit with one anyway.
“Unfortunately, providers aren’t going to write ‘Surprise!’ on top of a now-illegal bill,” said Caitlin Donovan, a spokeswoman for the National Patient Advocate Foundation.
“It’ll be up to patients to recognize when the new protections should apply.”
Before this year, if you had landed at a hospital where, say, the anesthesiologist didn’t participate in your health plan’s network, you could have been faced with thousands of dollars in costs even though you had no say in the matter.
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Sometimes insurers offer partial out-of-network coverage but leave the patient on the hook for the remaining tab, a practice called balance billing. Sometimes the insurer doesn’t cover any of the out-of-network costs.
The problem is common: Around one-fifth of emergency claims from private insurers include an out-of-network bill, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Most of those out-of-network charges are now banned, thanks to The No Surprises Act.