Insurers, businesses and consumer advocates unite against surprise medical bills

Nine organizations representing consumers, businesses and health insurance providers revealed they are banding together to protect patients from surprise, unexpected medical bills.

Surprise medical bills may occur when a patient receives care at an out-of-network hospital or from an out-of-network provider at an in-network facility.

These bills often leave patients on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars, according to the alliance organizations, which include America's Health Insurance Plans, American Benefits Council, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and Consumers Union. That's why participating organizations said they are coming together to advance core, guiding principles to protect patients from such out-of-pocket costs.  

The alliance said it agrees federal legislation should protect patients from surprise medical bills and that patients should be informed when care not in network. It also agrees U.S. policy "should protect consumers from surprise medical bills while restraining costs and ensuring quality networks," and that payments to out-of-network physicians "should be based on a federal standard."

But Federation of American Hospitals President and CEO Chip Kahn and American Hospital Association President and CEO Rick Pollack said the alliance is mischaracterizing the root of the issue.

"Inadequate health plan provider networks that limit patient access to emergency care is one of the root causes of surprise bills. Patients should be confident that they can seek immediate lifesaving care at any hospital," the CEOs said. 

"The hospital community wants to ensure that patients are protected from surprise gaps in coverage that result in surprise bills, and we look forward to working with policymakers to achieve this goal," Mr. Kahn and Mr. Pollack said.

Alliance participants also include the ERISA Industry Committee, Families USA, National Association of Health Underwriters, National Business Group on Health and the National Retail Federation.


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