Study: No Surprises Act could result in millions more emergency department visits

The No Surprises Act, which prevents patients from receiving surprise bills from out-of-network providers at emergency rooms, could lead to an increase in emergency department visits, a new study from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found

The study, published Sept. 12 in The American Journal of Medical Care, compared emergency department visits rates in 15 states that implemented bans on balance billing between 2007 and 2018 to rates in 16 states where these bills were not banned. 

The study's authors found that state-level bans reduced spending per emergency room visit by 14 percent but increased emergency room visits by 3 percentage points. These visits were 9 percent less urgent than before the balance billing ban, according to an emergency department severity index. 

Based on the state-level analysis, the study's authors, led by AHRQ researcher William Encinosa, PhD, conclude that the No Surprises Act, which took effect this year, could result in 3.5 million more emergency room visits annually. 

"Because individuals will no longer have the fear of a possible catastrophic surprise ED bill not covered by their insurer, they may be more inclined to go to the ED in marginal, less severe cases," the authors wrote. 

Read the full study here.

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