To help inform policymakers as they debate a range of patient protection options, we have identified key considerations for addressing surprise medical bills. These considerations are informed by policies already adopted in more than half of states. One key consideration is how surprise medical billing protections will be enforced.
NOTE: Congress recently enacted the federal No Surprises Act, a new federal law that protects patients from surprise medical bills in all states. These comprehensive new protections will go into effect beginning in 2022 and will protect patients from surprise medical bills for emergency services (including air ambulances) and non-emergency services provided at an in-network facility. Patients’ out-of-pocket costs will be limited to the costs they would have paid if they had received services from an in-network doctor, hospital, or other health care provider. The considerations here may continue to be relevant (especially for state policymakers interested in pursuing separate protections) but we recommend that readers learn more about the No Surprises Act here.
Policymakers should also consider how the government will ensure that insurers and providers comply with surprise billing protections. One key issue is whether it is easier for the state or federal government to enforce the rules and which state or federal agency is best positioned to conduct enforcement. Some states direct their insurance department to ensure compliance with the law, but while insurance departments have clear jurisdiction over insurance companies, they often lack jurisdiction over providers. Some states may rely on their medical licensing authority or “deceptive trade practice” statutes to enforce requirements on providers; other states may be dependent on the attorney general filing a civil lawsuit against providers who continue to send surprise bills to patients.
We Are Here to Help
Our goal is to help policymakers adopt comprehensive surprise billing protections for patients. Policymakers and staff can contact our team about a specific question or with a broader request for technical assistance. Our experts are available to review materials and consult on policy solutions.