Tags: surprise | medical | bills | consumer | reports

Surprise Medical Bills Hit 1 in 3 Americans

By    |   Thursday, 07 May 2015 01:37 PM

About one in three Americans received a surprise medical bill for services not covered by their health insurance plan in the past two years, according to a new Consumer Reports analysis.

The findings, based on a national survey of 2,200 American adults, also indicate nearly one out of four got a bill from a doctor they did not expect and many consumers are confused about their rights to dispute such charges.

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“For years we have heard horror stories from consumers hit with surprise medical bills. Even if you go to a hospital in your network, the unfortunate truth is that there is no guarantee that all your treatment — whether it’s the radiologist, anesthesiologist, or lab work — will be treated as in-network, leaving patients owing thousands of dollars they never anticipated,” said DeAnn Friedholm, Director of Health Reform for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports.

“Avoiding these types of charges can be difficult enough for a planned procedure, let alone in an emergency treatment situation. That’s why Consumers Union is pushing for state laws that will help consumers resolve and avoid surprise medical bills.”

Friedholm said the survey spotlights loopholes in the health insurance system that allow insurers to charge more for out-of-network doctors and facilities. Insurance networks have narrowed in many states, limiting doctor and hospital choices, in an effort to hold down costs in response to Obamacare.

According to the survey:

• Only 28 percent of privately insured Americans with billing issues were satisfied with how the issue was resolved.
• More than half (53 percent) reported the issue was either not resolved as they liked or not resolved at all.
• A majority (57 percent) ended up paying the bill in full.
• Nearly three-quarters were unsure if they had the right in their state to appeal their health plan’s refusal to coverage medical services.
• Most (87 percent) did not know which agency or department in their state government is tasked with handling complaints about health insurance.

Consumers Union is currently supporting legislation in several states, including California and Texas, which would strengthen protections against surprise medical bills.

“Opponents of legislation to strengthen consumer protections against surprise medical bills often say this isn’t a big problem for consumers and point to a lack of complaints at state insurance departments,” said Friedholm. “This survey clearly shows that consumers want to complain about bills, but don’t know who to contact or even if they should be complaining.”

Consumers Union has also created a new online tool — available at ConsumersUnion.org/insurance-complaint-tool — to help victims of surprise medical bills find the right resources for assistance in their state.

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Nearly a third of Americans received a surprise medical bill for services not covered by their health insurance plan in the past two years, according to a new Consumer Reports analysis.
surprise, medical, bills, consumer, reports
Thursday, 07 May 2015 01:37 PM
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