Your Rights and Protections Against Surprise Medical Bills
When you get emergency care or are treated by an out-of-network provider at an in-network hospital or ambulatory surgical center, you are protected from balance billing. In these cases, you shouldn’t be charged more than your plan’s copayments, coinsurance and/or deductible.
What is “balance billing” (sometimes called “surprise billing”)?
When you see a doctor or other healthcare provider or receive laboratory services, you may owe certain out-of-pocket costs, like a copayment, coinsurance, or deductible. You may have other costs or have to pay the entire bill if you see a provider, visit a healthcare facility, or receive laboratory services from a laboratory that isn’t in your health plan’s network.
“Out-of-network” means providers (including laboratories) and facilities that haven’t signed a contract with your health plan. Out-of-network providers may be allowed to bill you for the difference between what your plan pays, and the full amount charged for a service. This is called “balance billing.” This amount is likely more than in-network costs for the same service and might not count toward your plan’s deductible or annual out-of-pocket limit.
“Surprise billing” is an unexpected balance bill. This can happen when you can’t control who is involved in your care—like when you have an emergency or when you schedule a visit at an in-network facility but are unexpectedly treated by an out-of-network provider. Surprise medical bills could cost thousands of dollars depending on the procedure or service.
Insurers are required to tell you which providers, hospitals, and facilities are in their networks. Hospitals, surgical facilities, and providers must tell you which provider networks they participate in on their website or on request.
You are protected from balance billing for:
If you have an emergency medical condition and get emergency services from an out-of-network provider or facility, the most they can bill you is your plan’s in-network cost-sharing amount (such as copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles). You can’t be balance billed for these emergency services. This includes services you may get after you’re in stable condition, unless you give written consent and give up your protections not to be balanced billed for these post-stabilization services.
In addition to the protections of the Federal No Surprises Act, the state in which you receive services may have protections that apply to your visit for emergency or non-emergency services. Additional information is available from your state government. (See Appendix A below for more information).
Certain services at an in-network hospital or ambulatory surgical center
When you get services from an in-network hospital or ambulatory surgical center, certain providers there may be out-of-network. In these cases, the most those providers can bill you is your plan’s in-network cost-sharing amount. This applies to emergency medicine, anesthesia, pathology, radiology, laboratory, neonatology, assistant surgeon, hospitalist, or intensivist services. These providers can’t balance bill you and may not ask you to give up your protections not to be balance billed. If you receive other types of services at these in-network facilities, out-of-network providers can’t balance bill you, unless you give written consent and give up your protections.
You’re never required to give up your protections from balance billing. You also aren’t required to get out-of-network care. You can choose a provider or facility in your plan’s network.
In addition to the protections of the Federal No Surprises Act, the state in which you receive services may have protections that apply to non-emergency services at an in-network facility. Additional information is available on your state’s website (See Appendix A below for more information).
When balance billing isn’t allowed, you also have the following protections:
You’re only responsible for paying your share of the cost (e.g., copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles that you would pay if the provider or facility was in-network). Your health plan will pay any additional costs to out-of-network providers and facilities directly.
Generally, your health plan must:
- Cover emergency services without requiring you to get approval for services in advance (also known as “prior authorization”).
- Cover emergency services by out-of-network
- Base what you owe the provider or facility (cost-sharing) on what it would pay an in-network provider or facility and show that amount in your explanation of
- Count any amount you pay for emergency services or out-of-network services toward your in- network deductible and out-of-pocket
If you think you’ve been wrongly billed, contact your state (See Appendix A below for your state’s contact information) or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at 1-800-985-3059. Your state website can be found at www.[enter your state name].gov and by searching “no surprises, balance billing or consumer protections.” Visit https://www.cms.gov/nosurprises for more information about your rights under federal law.
GOOD FAITH ESTIMATE
Under the law, healthcare providers need to give patients who don’t have certain types of health coverage or who are not using certain types of health care coverage an estimate of their bill for health care items or services before those items and services are provided.
- You have the right to receive a Good Faith Estimate (GFE) for the total expected cost of any healthcare items or services upon request or when scheduling such items or services. This includes related costs like medical tests, prescriptive drugs, equipment, and hospital fees.
- If you schedule a healthcare item or service at least three (3) business days in advance, make sure your healthcare provider or facility gives you a GFE in writing within one (1) business day after scheduling.
- If you schedule a healthcare item or service at least ten (10) business days in advance, make sure your healthcare provider or facility gives you a GFE in writing within three (3) business days after scheduling.
- You can also ask any healthcare provider or facility for a GFE before you schedule an item or service. If you do, make sure the healthcare provider or facility gives you a GFE in writing within three (3) business days after you ask.
- If you receive a bill that is at least $400 more for any provider or facility than your GFE from that provider or facility, you can dispute the bill.
- Make sure to save a copy or picture of your GFE.
For questions or more information about your right to a Good Faith Estimate, visit:
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