New federal protections apply to most surprise bills
Protections will apply to most surprise bills for specific types of services provided in certain settings.
Emergency Services – Surprise billing protections apply to most emergency services, including those provided in hospital emergency rooms, freestanding emergency departments, and urgent care centers that are licensed to provide emergency care. The federal law also applies to air ambulance transportation (emergency and non-emergency), but not ground ambulance. Emergency care includes screening and stabilizing treatment sought by patients who believe they are experiencing a medical emergency or active labor.
The federal government estimates there are 39.7 million emergency visits annually by patients with private job-based or individually purchased insurance, and of these 18% (or about 7.1 million visits) will involve at least one out-of-network claim.
Post-emergency stabilization services – The NSA defines emergency services to also include post-stabilization services provided in a hospital following an emergency visit. Post-stabilization care is considered emergency care until a physician determines the patient can travel safely to another in-network facility using non-medical transport, that such a facility is available and will accept the transfer, and that the transfer will not cause the patient other unreasonable burdens. The NSA also requires patients must receive written notice and give written consent to be transferred.6 The federal government estimates each year 4.1 million emergency department visits result in a hospital admission, and that 16% (or about 660,000) of these admissions will involve at least one out-of-network claim.
Non-emergency services provided at in-network facilities – Finally, the NSA covers non-emergency services provided by out-of-network providers at in-network hospitals and other facilities. Often, the doctors who work in hospitals don’t work for the hospital; instead they bill independently and do not necessarily participate in the same health plan networks. The federal government estimates that 16% of 11.1 million (or about 1.8 million) in-network non-emergency facility stays for privately insured patients each year involve at least one out-of-network claim.
The regulation broadly defines covered non-emergency services to include treatment, equipment and devices, telemedicine services, imaging and lab services, and preoperative and postoperative services, regardless of whether those services are provided within the facility itself.