Mississippi residents may have an out for surprise medical bills

A Mississippi law could help patients reduce out-of-pocket healthcare costs, but not all medical providers know about the legislation, according to a Clarion Ledger report.

The law, passed in 2013, prohibits balance billing, which happens when a healthcare provider charges an amount for their services, and the patient is responsible for costs not covered by insurance. It typically happens when the provider is not part of the patient's insurance network.

Although this law is in place, balance billing is still seen by Michelle Fuller, an employee benefit adviser in Hattiesburg, Miss.

"Medical providers, a lot of them, truly are not aware of this law," she told the Clarion Ledger. "When we make them aware of it, and the administrators find that it is a legitimate law, they write off the balance bill."

One issue acknowledged by Ms. Fuller is that the law is not consistently enforced.

The Mississippi Insurance Department and the Mississippi attorney general told the Clarion Ledger they can help mediate balanced bills for patients but also are unable to provide enforcement of the law.

The state insurance department pointed to success with those mediation efforts. However, the department also said the state's balance billing law typically does little to lower air ambulance costs. This is because under federal law, air ambulances are considered air carriers and have few restrictions on the amount they can charge for rides, reports Bloomberg.

Mississippi, along with at least 14 other states, has limited protections for consumers from balance billing. The Mississippi law stipulates providers may not send a balance bill to a patient if the provider accepts any insurance payment, according to the Clarion Ledger. But the publication notes the law would not apply if the provider in the beginning refuses to accept the coverage.

Read the full Clarion Ledger report here.


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