With elections coming up, politicians are quick to criticize surprise medical bills. Unfortunately, they aren’t as quick to act on their promise. Recently, new “surprise billing legislation” was written up and candidates must now decide where they stand. These surprise bills are a form of so-called patient extortion unique to the United States.
Surprise Medical Bills: What Are They?
One of the steepest surprise costs patients encounter is when there is an emergency. If a patient is rushed via ambulance to a nearby hospital, this poses a serious problem. The patient needs immediate help but may be taken to a hospital out of his/her insurance network. This will leave them with a large bill simply for being vulnerable and needing medical attention. Even if a patient has a scheduled procedure with their in-network provider, other specialists may be brought in that are out of network and will be billed much higher.
What Causes Surprise Medical Bills?
Unfortunately, the loopholes mentioned above are being used to make extra money, benefiting major sectors of the health industry. Surprise medical bills are just one more way major players in the health industry are fighting over the fortune being raked in each year. Many years ago insurance providers were nonprofit entities, and medical costs were much lower. At that time, there was no financial gain for the health care industry. However, the industry soon realized that they could charge much more for the services people needed. Life and death situations, so to speak. Naturally, insurance companies weren’t going to stand for this. Premiums and copays increased and the insurance field became more competitive. Many physicians left certain insurance networks, or vice versa. Then, to gain more money on their side, hospitals added new fees and increased current rates. While both parties learned to be happy with their arrangement, patients suffered. Nothing has changed on a federal level, but some states have passed their own surprise medical bill laws. These laws won’t hold up against the federally regulated insurance, but will help some patients.
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