Another new year brings in another new law – this one aimed at consumer and patient protection. Thanks to the “”No Surprises Act,” which went into effect Jan 1, you will no longer be surprised by the cost of medical bills for a doctor or services you didn’t choose in emergency situations. This means, if you end up in a crisis situation and need an urgent care center or emergency room, you will only be responsible for your in-network cost sharing amount. Prior to this law, if you had health insurance and received care from an out-of-network provider or an out-of-network facility (even unknowingly), your health insurance plan may not have covered the entire out-of-network cost. As a result, leaving you with a lot of unwanted “surprise bills” that could range from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars. This could certainly ruin your day, your week, or even your year.
The new law, which was passed by Congress in Dec 2020 as part of the conronvairus compromise package, covers most emergency services in hospitals, freestanding emergency departments and urgent care centers licensed to provide emergency care. It applies to air ambulance services; however, ground ambulances are not included. All in all, we know that even with insurance, emergency medical bills can be expensive, but at least this law will help eliminate the risk that an out-of-network doctor or hospital will send a surprise bill. To those that are uninsured, you should be able to get good faith estimate of the cost of your care up front, before your visit. Our health care system is good but not perfect – and this law is a step in the right direction for patients.