The issue of patients receiving large, unexpected medical bills from hospitals and physicians has been widely publicized. This situation, known as surprise billing, arises when a hospital or physician provides medical care to a patient but is not participating in a patient’s insurance network. We have reported on the many states that have put legislation in place to try and mitigate the problem for their own residents, but now there will be a nationwide policy thanks to recent federal legislation.
The “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021” (CAA) is a sweeping piece of legislation that provides relief to individuals and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency. Some of the relief provisions apply to all businesses, including medical practices, but it also contains several measures that specifically apply to medical practices.
In the absence of federal regulation, states are adopting laws intended to protect patients from high out-of-pocket costs when they unexpectedly receive services from out-of-network (OON) providers. When a patient receives an unexpected bill following such OON services the situation is known as “surprise billing.” Not all OON billing falls into the category of “surprise billing,” however. In many cases, patients understand that the services they are receiving are OON and they expect to pay all or part of the bill.