Here’s what you need to know about the ‘No Surprises Act’
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - If you’ve used an emergency room or have even just been to the hospital, there’s a good chance you’ve gotten a bill that made your jaw drop to the floor. But as of January, many of those surprise medical bills are set to be a thing of the past thanks to this new law.
After two long years of debate, lawmakers in Washington were able pass the ‘No Surprises Act,’ which provides new federal protections for patients against surprise medical bills.
“This requires everyone involved in your care to give you an upfront price of what it’s going to cost to care for you,” said Republican Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy.
Cassidy was one of those in Washington who put this law together with members of both parties. It protects patients with most insurance plans from surprise costs associated with out-of-network providers, such as a doctor or piece of equipment or lab used in a scheduled procedure. Medical providers must let patients know what the services cost ahead of time, eliminating extra or “surprise” bills after the fact.
“There might be a piece of equipment that was out of network and you get a huge bill separate, months later, separate from what you expected. this takes care of that,” said Sen. Cassidy.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, the law protects patients by no longer allowing them to be billed the balance for emergency and most non-emergency services. It also takes patients out of the middle over billing disputes between providers and insurers.
And, according to the congressional budget office, it will reduce health insurance premiums.
It may change things up a bit, but what it will not change is the relationship between you and your doctor.
“Unless your insurance company directs you to a different provider and that’s up to you, the patients, to figure that out,” said Dr. Aldo Russo with Ochsner.
The law applies to bills for emergency services provided in hospital emergency departments, freestanding emergency facilities, and urgent care centers that provide emergency services. It covers air ambulance transportation but not ground transportation or non-emergency services provided by out-of-network providers.
Supporters of the law said this will bring sweeping change to the cost of healthcare, making it more accessible and affordable for all patients.
If you receive a bill with any surprise charges for these covered services, you should contact either the U.S Dept. of Health and Human Services at 1-800-985-3059 or the La. Dept. of Insurance at 1-800-259-5300.
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