Saturday, June 13, 2015

Surprise Bills for Many Under Health Law Out-of-network charges often aren’t flagged before treatment, consumers say; states tightening laws

Stephanie Armour of the Wall Street Journal reports June 11, 2015
"Many consumers with health coverage through the Affordable Care Act are facing unexpected medical bills that in some cases greatly exceed the law’s caps on out-of-pocket expenses.
The law’s limits don’t apply to charges from out-of-network providers, and many insurance plans sold on ACA exchanges have limited networks—amplifying the risk of surprise bills...
When Arturo Paramo, a 50-year-old construction worker, experienced chest pains last year, he was admitted to St. Francis Hospital in Bartlett, Tenn., after a doctor sent him there following an electrocardiogram. His wife, Bainey, said they weren’t told the hospital in suburban Memphis didn’t accept her family plan. They got a $22,945 bill—above the ACA’s $12,700 cap for a family plan in 2014—in the mail....The couple appealed the charge, which the hospital reduced to $600—but only after the bill had been sent to a collections agency, which Ms. Paramo worries will hurt the family’s credit rating....
More states are passing laws that aim to halt unexpected out-of-network bills. Under California legislation approved this month, consumers who go to an in-network facility but are treated by an out-of-network provider there only have to pay what they would have been charged if the provider participated in their plan.
A New York law providing a number of out-of-network safeguards went into effect in April, and legislation has been introduced in Texas....More than half of Americans say making sure health plans have sufficient networks to provide a wide choice of doctors and hospitals should be a top health-care priority for the president and Congress, according to an April poll by the foundation....Anthem Blue Cross of California, Cigna Corp. and Blue Shield of California are facing lawsuits filed in 2014 by beneficiaries who say they were misled about the size of the networks when obtaining coverage on the state’s ACA exchange. The insurers either declined to comment or didn’t respond to an email seeking comment...." More.

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