Here’s the devious surprise bill game:
The health insurer sends you to the provider, who sends you to the health insurer. Each threw up privacy roadblocks, claiming they can’t talk. Copies of power of attorney and “appointment of representative” forms routinely disappear. Insurer refers to a claims processor. Voice-mail menus now are a diabolical purgatory. More surprise bills arrived. Phone calls threatening collection start.
Stanford researchers found of 13.6 million ER visits in 2010, 32.3 percent resulted in a surprise medical bill averaging $220. By 2016,42.8 percent-the average bill at $628.
Of 5.5 million inpatient visits, surprise bill percentages increased from 26.3 to 42 percent, the average bill rose from $804 to $2,040.Federal legislation is going nowhere.
Twenty-eight states are passing laws that offer at least some restrictions on surprise billing, but federal regulations limit their reach. For example, self-insured group health plans, which apply to employees of most large corporations, are not protected by state laws.