Your Rights and Protections Against Surprise Medical Bills
When you obtain emergency care or are treated by an out-of-network provider at an in-network hospital or ambulatory surgical center, you are protected from surprise billing or balance billing.
What is “balance billing” (sometimes called “surprise billing”)?
When you see a doctor or other health care provider, you may owe certain out-of-pocket costs, such as a copayment, coinsurance, and/or a deductible. You may have other costs or have to pay the entire bill if you see a provider or visit a health care facility that isn’t in your health plan’s network.
“Out-of-network” describes providers and facilities that haven’t signed a contract with your health plan. Out-of-network providers may be permitted to bill you for the difference between what your plan agreed to pay and the full amount charged for a service. This is called “balance billing.” This amount is likely more than in-network costs for the same service and might not count toward your annual out-of-pocket limit.
“Surprise billing” is an unexpected balance bill. This can happen when you can’t control who is involved in your care—like when you have an emergency or when you schedule a visit at an in-network facility but are unexpectedly treated by an out-of-network provider.
You are protected from balance billing for:
If you have an emergency medical condition and receive emergency services from an out-of-network provider or facility, the most the provider or facility may bill you is your plan’s in-network cost-sharing amount (such as copayments and coinsurance). You cannot be balance billed for these emergency services. This includes services you may receive after you’re in stable condition, unless you give written consent and give up your protections not to be balanced billed for these post-stabilization services.
See a summary of related state balance billing laws at: https://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/maps-andinteractives/2021/feb/state-balance-billing-protections.
CERTAIN SERVICES AT AN IN-NETWORK HOSPITAL OR AMBULATORY SURGICAL CENTER
When you obtain services from an in-network hospital or ambulatory surgical center, certain providers there may be out-of-network. In these cases, the most those providers may bill you is your plan’s in-network cost-sharing amount. This applies to emergency medicine, anesthesia, pathology, radiology, laboratory, neonatology, assistant surgeon, hospitalist, or intensivist services. These providers cannot balance bill you and may not ask you to give up your protections not to be balance billed.
If you obtain other services at these in-network facilities, out-of-network providers cannot balance bill you, unless you give written consent and give up your protections.
You are never required to give up your protections from balance billing. Also, you are not required to obtain care out-of-network. You can choose a provider or facility in your plan’s network.
In certain states, you may also have related state protections:
Visit The Commonwealth Fund website for updated state balance-billing protections at https://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/maps-and-interactives/2021/feb/state-balance-billing-protections.
Download this document to view more information on your state billing laws or requirements.