Landmark Health Care Consumer Protection Legislation Signed Into Law

Doctor
New law bans most surprise bills from out-of-network medical providers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As part of the larger government funding bill, President Donald Trump signed bipartisan legislation into law Sunday that will protect millions of consumers from outrageous health bills from out-of-network providers. These unfair surprise bills come from balance billing — when out-of-network medical professionals charge you the difference between their fees and the maximum amount allowed by your insurance company.

In response to the president signing the surprise billing legislation, Patricia Kelmar, U.S. PIRG’s Health Care Campaigns director, made the following statement:

“This undoubtedly is the most far-reaching consumer health protection that Congress has passed in years. Millions of Americans in all 50 states no longer need to worry about getting outrageous surprise medical bills they cannot afford.

“Too often, invoices for hundreds or even thousands of dollars land in patients’ mailboxes after they unknowingly received care from an out-of-network provider. In fact, there’s a one in five chance that we’ll be hit with a surprise medical bill after visiting a hospital or emergency room.

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“When this law is in place, out-of-network providers, hospitals and air ambulances won’t be able to take advantage of people who need care in an emergency or who did their best to go to an in-network provider. Consumers will only need to pay their regular in-network amounts.

“The new law installs guardrails to prevent out-of-network billers from simply charging our insurance companies instead, which could increase our premiums. It sets up an arbitration system that could reduce out-of-network payments by insurers by up to 15-20 percent.

“This win for consumers could not be denied, despite the fear-mongering and heavily financed lobbying by private-equity-backed physician staffing firms and other opponents.

“While the final law is not exactly the legislation we called for, we’ll work hard to ensure stronger regulations are put in place. And we’ll monitor this law’s impact on costs in the years ahead.”

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