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New coalition pushes to protect patients from “surprise” medical bills

coalitionWith one in 10 adults receiving a so-called “surprise” bill this past year from a doctor, lab or other health care provider, there is both growing awareness and increasing calls for a government remedy. One coalition is pushing for a solution.

“Surprise” medical bills often occur when patients visit a hospital covered by their insurance network but are treated by a contract physician who is not part of the network. The patient may have no idea their doctor was out of network until the day the bill arrives. A survey released last summer by NORC at the University of Chicago, found more than half (57 percent) of American adults received a “surprise” medical bill at some point in their life.

So what can patients do?

Often, they have very little choice except to try to negotiate the bill down to a reasonable rate.

A new coalition of insurance, business and consumer groups is pushing for stronger consumer protections, Fierce Healthcare reports.

These protections include:

  • Federal legislation to end surprise medical bills.
  • “Right to Know” policies, allowing patients to know the true costs and their options.
  • A federal standard for payment of out-of-network doctors.

The coalition includes Consumers Union, Families USA, the National Retail Federation, America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

“When doctors, hospitals, or care specialists choose not to participate in networks – or if they do not meet the standards for inclusion in a network – they charge whatever rates they like. The consequence is millions of consumers receiving surprise, unexpected medical bills that can often break the bank,” said a statement announcing the effort.

Have you or someone you know received a surprise medical bill? Share your story with Voices for Affordable Health.