Surprise Medical Bills and Coronavirus

Surprise Medical Bills and Coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic has increased the potential that patients will receive a surprise medical bill. These bills could not come at a worse time since many people, fearful of and unable to afford a surprise bill, may simply decide not to get the testing or treatment they need.

This is one reason why new policies that protect patients from surprise medical bills are more important than ever. States continue to lead the way in protecting patients (both from COVID-19 surprise bills and beyond). Although Congress recently enacted new legislation to protect patients from surprise medical bills, this legislation does not go into effect until 2022, meaning some patients could receive surprise medical bills for COVID-19 testing or treatment until then. The federal government tried to protect some patients, but questions remain about how effective this approach will be.

Here are some resources to help better understand the status of current protections during the COVID-19 pandemic—and how policymakers could further protect patients during the critical time.

Commonwealth Fund legislation tracking map

States Protect Patients from Surprise Medical Bills. Even during the pandemic, states have adopted new or expanded protections for patients, with more states on the horizon. This To The Point blog for The Commonwealth Fund highlights the latest action in three states and new emergency protections in six states. Use this interactive map to see additional states that have adopted emergency protections for surprise medical bills or encouraged health care providers and insurers to protect patients.

White house, Washington DC, USA

Some Limited Protections from the White House. Federal officials tried to limit some surprise medical bills through the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund. Health care providers that accept money from the Fund must agree not to send surprise bills to any patient for COVID-related treatment. While this could be an important protection, questions about the Fund’s implementation and effectiveness remain. Learn more about how the Fund works and what it means (and does not mean) for protecting patients.

Support for policymakers. Our experts are here to help policymakers understand and address surprise medical bills, including in the context of COVID-19. We work closely with federal and state leaders to provide legal and policy technical assistance and help identify solutions that meet each policymaker’s unique needs.  Learn more about how we can help support your policy goals.