If you or a loved one suffers a serious injury, perhaps in a car crash, or another medical emergency, like a heart attack, you just want immediate care. You typically don’t stop to think about whether you can afford it.
You also may have no choice about where you go for treatment. An ambulance or even a Medevac helicopter may whisk a patient away to the nearest hospital or trauma center. This can end up costing people tens of thousands of dollars.
Many of these unexpected medical charges will not be as high as they have been as of Jan. 1 of this year. That’s thanks to the No Surprises Act.
The law not only protects people who undergo emergency care, but also those who receive other treatment from out-of-network doctors and facilities if they didn’t choose those providers. Under the new law, they would be responsible only for the cost of in-network treatment.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, some 20% of emergency department visits result in a charge from a provider who was outside the patient’s insurance network. Only slightly fewer planned treatments at in-network facilities bring at least one out-of-network bill – perhaps from an anesthesiologist or surgical assistant who wasn’t in-network.
The new law will no doubt help with the crushing medical debt that many Americans still face, even with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Bacerra recently said, “No one should have to worry about going bankrupt after falling ill or seeking critical care.” The federal government has estimated that the No Surprises Act will affect some 10 million medical bills annually.
The law is, of course, very new. Therefore, it may take some time before real-life medical bills catch up with the law. Further, even in-network medical bills – particularly when they involve an emergency, specialized and/or long-term care – can be more than a family’s budget can handle on top of their everyday expenses and other debts.
If your debt is affecting your ability to care for yourself and your family, it’s wise to look at all of your options for getting out from under it – including bankruptcy. Getting experienced legal advice can help you evaluate your options.