On January 1, 2022, the No Surprises Act went into effect. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services notes that health insurance carriers may no longer send “surprise” bills. As reported by CNN, the Act could cut approximately 10 million surprise statements sent to patients each year.
Known as “balance billing,” insurance companies previously billed patients for the balance of services received from an out-of-network provider. Many individuals did not have a say in who treated them during an emergency. Before the No Surprises Act, patients received unexpected bills that caused severe financial hardships.
How surprise medical bills created financial hardships
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly one out of every five visits to an emergency room prior to 2022 led to one or more surprise medical bills. Patients needing emergency surgery, for example, could not choose the surgical assistants attending to them.
The Department of Health and Human Services reported that surgical assistants charged an average of $2,600 for their services. By operating outside of a patient’s health insurance network, many affected individuals received a bill for the surgical assistant’s services during an unanticipated procedure. With time away from work to recover, the out-of-pocket costs for emergency surgery exceeded many individuals’ ability to pay.
Unmanageable medical debts may require a bankruptcy filing
In a 2021 survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, at least 33% of U.S. adults with health insurance admitted to struggling with at least one medical bill. Data also revealed that 34% of U.S. residents of working age carried medical debts.
As reported by USA Today, healthcare bills contribute to not having the means to afford necessities such as food and rent. To move forward, individuals may turn to bankruptcy for much-needed relief. Depending on a household’s monthly income and expenses, a court may discharge most consumer debts including outstanding medical bills.