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. While states continue to lead the way in protecting patients (both from COVID-19 surprise bills and beyond), Congress has not yet adopted a comprehensive ban on surprise medical bills for COVID-19 testing or treatment. And the Trump administration has 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.

What Congress Could Do. Congress has not yet adopted a comprehensive solution to protect patients from surprise medical bills. Given the COVID-19 crisis, Congress could do more to at least protect patients during the current public health and economic crisis. Read more about our proposed immediate, short-term federal solution to prohibit surprise medical bills for those affected by COVID-19.


White house, Washington DC, USA

Some Limited Protections from the Trump Administration. The Trump administration has tried to limit some surprise medical bills through its 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.