Currently, patients who are insured and choose an ER that’s in their insurance network can still get hit with huge “sticker shock” bills.
As a recent New York Times article pointed out, this is happening because even though a hospital is in-network, the doctors who work there may not necessarily be part of that network.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, earlier this month asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to look into these medical bills, which can have a financially devastating impact on unsuspecting healthcare consumers who are otherwise fully covered by their insurance plans.
“I urge the FTC to investigate this issue to ensure that consumers are protected against surprise ‘out-of-network’ bills,” Nelson writes. “At a minimum, consumers should be told that they will be, or may be, treated by an ‘out-of-network’ provider and how much that treatment may cost.”
Nelson goes even further by urging the FTC to consider “whether these ‘out-of-network’ charges should be banned altogether” when consumers have no other viable options for treatment.
Citing a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine last month and the New York Times piece, urged the FTC to investigate whether billing patients in this way is unfair or deceptive. The FTC is the century-old consumer protection agency which cracks down on deceptive business practices.
Consumer Reports and other consumer advocacy organizations have pushed for laws in five states to limit surprise medical bills in ER cases. Since 2015, Illinois, Connecticut, New York, Florida, and California have enacted laws against surprise medical billing.