What are Surprise Medical Bills and How Can They Be Resolved?

As a physician, can you recall any instances when a patient left your office in dismay after a successful operation only to return a few weeks later when they received an enormous bill? Have you ever left the hospital relieved? Then, the insurance company’s refusal to cover the services shocked you with a big bill. If so, you have fallen prey to the evil known as SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLS,” or balance bills. Balance billing happens when a patient gets emergency care at an in-network institution from an out-of-network physician.


In 2022, lawmakers enacted the No Surprises Act to address this issue. It shields individuals receiving emergency treatment or care from an out-of-network physician at an in-network hospital from unexpectedly high medical expenses. The Act restricts the amount consumers must pay out-of-pocket for emergency care or visits to an out-of-network physician at their regular in-network hospital. They determine this cap using the average cost of the service in that region.


Let’s consider a scenario where a man visits his local hospital with a broken arm, but his insurance does not cover the orthopedic surgeon who treats him. Without legislation, that orthopedic doctor could have billed the patient a considerable amount. However, due to the No Surprises Act, the orthopedic surgeon is only permitted to bill the patient the going rate for fixing a broken arm in that town.

What is Surprise Medical Billing?

Unexpected medical bills occur when a patient receives treatment from an out-of-network physician or facility without realizing it. In such cases, the patient is responsible for paying the bill. This happens because the physician or facility and the patient’s insurance company couldn’t agree on a reimbursement rate. This lack of agreement leaves the patient with the bill. The No Surprises Act aims to protect patients from such situations.

[Total Amount of Medical Bills—Amount Paid by Insurance Provider] is the balance billing.

It might be the lone supplier for miles or an emergency. Regardless of how things work out, individuals sometimes need help choosing where and with whom they get medical care. During these periods, people often wind up seeing an out-of-network physician for therapy.

Sadly, instead of agreeing, insurance companies and non-network medical providers often impose the cost of treatment on the consumer when they disagree over who should pay for what. Thus, the patient is presented with an unexpected bill known as the “Surprise Medical Bill” that contains high out-of-network medical costs in addition to the standard copay or deductible.

Why Are These Medical Bills Called Surprise Bills?

You expect to pay standard hospital fees when you check in, but suddenly, you receive an unexpected medical bill. You can call it a “surprise” because people often need to know of these costs. This is how it operates: After learning about the related expenses, a patient chooses a hospital and doctors from inside their network. During his therapy, the therapy team brought in an out-of-network specialist without his knowledge. Surgery may require an anesthesiologist or an emergency room doctor. Despite being unable to choose the physician who treated them, the patient is now responsible for the high expense. Unexpected medical expenses are thus just that—surprises. Patients experience financial shock due to unanticipated costs arising out of no fault of their own.

What are Surprised Medical Bills and How can they be Resolved?

Why Do Surprise Medical Bills Happen?

Imagine getting a medical bill in the mail that costs thousands of dollars and that you have yet to agree to pay or plan for. For far too many patients, this is regrettably the case. Surprisingly, the main factors that lead to these unjust surprise bills in medical billing are:

1. In-network facility, out-of-network care.

Many medical practices work with in-network insurance companies but often use out-of-network experts like radiologists, pathologists, and anesthesiologists. This situation can lead to issues when an in-network institution treats a patient, but the patient sees an out-of-network physician. The patient may need to pay the full cost because out-of-network physicians can charge a contract with the patient’s insurance. 

2. Out-of-network surgery adjunct.

Unexpected medical costs can arise if a patient faces post-surgery difficulties or needs treatment from an out-of-network specialist. For instance, a patient having a standard hip replacement at a local hospital may discover that their insurance covers. However, consulting an out-of-network vascular surgeon or cardiologist for unforeseen issues could lead to extra expenses.  

3. The patient needs more cost control.

We seldom anticipate the horrible hand that fate has on us. Unexpected medical bills in the mailbox serve as a sobering reminder of this reality. You go about your day never thinking that suddenly, you’ll find yourself in an ambulance at the nearest hospital, treated by the first person on call, regardless of whether they are in-network physicians. You do not influence the expense of emergency treatment, but you still need to pay the bills. 

4. Patient's Coding Chart Error:

Errors in the intricate medical billing and coding process might result in unexpected medical expenditures. To report the specific services you get to your insurance company, the physicians and hospitals must convert them into codes when you receive treatment. Errors may sometimes occur while choosing or inputting such codes, resulting in unexpected expenditures for expenses you didn’t anticipate.

Let’s take a scenario where you visit the ER due to a stomach ache. To rule anything out, the physician conducts a CT scan. A few weeks later, you received a bill for the $500 part that your insurance did not pay. As it happens, the CT scan code you supplied was for a more expensive treatment than the basic scan you had.

How Do Patients Avoid Unexpected Medical Billing With the No Surprises Act?

The Trump administration approved the No Surprises Act in January 2022. Its goal is to shield consumers from paying excessive medical costs when they get treatment from providers not in the network. To the dismay of several doctors and hospitals, President Biden has maintained the policy since assuming office. In summary, payment rates for out-of-network treatment must be negotiated between insurers and providers per legal requirement. If they cannot agree, the matter goes to arbitration, where a neutral third-party mediator will decide on a reasonable cost.

The powerful dollar is at the center of these discussions, as is the No Surprises Act. Depending on which side of the equation they are on, each party wants to get the best or lowest payout. The Qualifying Payment Amount (QPA) is benchmark price legislation that directs the independent arbitration procedure. This is an area-specific representation of the service’s median in-network rate. Theoretically, this QPA encourages a fair compromise.

Does Anyone Qualify For The No Surprises Act?

The No Surprises Act shields patients with private insurance from three unexpected medical expenditures. It protects consumers against unexpected out-of-network medical expenditures from surgical centers or hospitals. Often, these increased bills result from emergency scenarios in which the patient is unable to confirm their participation in the network in advance.

If a patient has surgery or other treatment performed by a doctor, not in their network, the No Surprises Act protects them. This typically occurs when the need arises for additional medical professionals, such as radiologists or anesthesiologists.

How Should You Proceed If You Get Unexpected Medical Bills?

The first thing a patient should do when they receive an unexpected medical bill in the mail is check to see whether it is still legal under the most recent government regulations. The new legislation, which went into effect on January 1, 2022, offers protection to those who have private insurance that they bought straight from an insurance provider or via their workplace or the healthcare marketplace. According to the legislation, insurance companies must pay for all air ambulance transports. They must cover out-of-network treatments incurred after emergency or regular medical care at in-network institutions, treating them as in-network services.  

What Is Covered by the No Surprise Billing Protection Law?

This federal statute protects patients against some unforeseen medical expenses. Let’s examine how this federal statute shields people from unexpected medical costs: It briefly prohibits medical professionals and hospitals from charging you directly for things like unintentionally receiving out-of-network treatment at an in-network institution or costs exceeding your plan’s allowable maximum for a covered service. Physicians and insurers must now resolve all billing issues behind the scenes; your only payments will be your regular copays, coinsurance, and deductibles. Additionally, the law mandates accurate cost estimates upfront to protect you from future surprises. 

Ends Unexpected Medical Charges:

Even if the patient receives treatment from an out-of-network doctor in an emergency without first obtaining approval from their insurance, they will not face a significant surprise bill afterward. The insurance companies and hospitals will have to work it out between themselves. 

No Out-Of-Network Charges:

Surprising medical bill laws have also eliminated unexpected costs for non-emergency procedures and emergency care. You won’t pay more for an out-of-network doctor than an in-network practitioner if your insurance doesn’t cover the whole amount—no more unanticipated copayments or coinsurance, which may total thousands or even hundreds of dollars.

Prevents Balance Billing:

A patient expects all of the providers—including doctors—to be included in his insurance network when he visits a hospital or clinic that is part of it for treatment. Some professionals, such as radiologists and anesthesiologists, are often out-of-network. The patient may subsequently get enormous invoices that his insurance will not pay, forcing him to bear the entire expense of treatment. These “balance bills” are prohibited under the No Surprise Bill Protection Act, which guarantees that consumers only pay for in-network expenses even when certain providers are out-of-network.

Pre-Treatment Rights Statement:

Patients are also given rights under the new unexpected medical billing legislation of 2024, which their physician or hospital must adequately explain. Patients shall be given a clear notice outlining their rights, who to contact if those rights are violated, and that giving up those rights would require their permission before receiving any therapy. Out-of-network fees cannot be imposed on a patient without their consent.

What are Surprised Medical Bills and How can they be Resolved?

How to Dispute Surprise Medical Bills?

Unexpected medical expenditures might make you feel overwhelmed and powerless. There are, nonetheless, actions you may do to refute these unjust accusations. Below, I’ll outline five of the most effective ways to swiftly challenge an unexpected medical bill, allowing you to get a settlement and move on.

Way 1- Contact the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid to Report Your Problem:

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have established a hotline to assist individuals in disputing unexpected bills and reporting problems related to their coverage. Call the hotline, explain the specifics of your charges and insurance coverage, and allow them to investigate. They may be able to lower or eliminate your charge and hold insurance companies responsible.

Way 2 – Speak with the Consumer Assistance Program in your state:

Contacting your state’s consumer support department is another sensible strategy for contesting Surprise Medical Prices. These beneficial groups protect the public against predatory behavior. They are qualified and experienced to contest false accusations on your behalf.

Give the state program a call and explain the circumstances. They will review the specifics to ensure the charges you received were legal. They will dispute the bill on your behalf with the healthcare provider and insurance company if the costs don’t seem reasonable. Each can lower the costs or get rid of them completely. By leveling the playing field, these programs save you from taking on big companies alone. 

Way 3 – Compose a Letter of Appeal to the Hospital that Unexpectedly Charged You:

When disputing unexpected charges, the most sensible course of action is to remind the hospital of their error. Send them a letter outlining how their bill violates the No Surprises Act. Inform them that unless you address this right away, you will be forced to denounce them to the police.

Since then, breaking patient protection rules has put the institution at risk of severe penalties of up to $10,000. Therefore, once the hospital realizes its mistake, it’s likely to act quickly to correct it. To save themselves the hassle of a formal complaint and fines from the government, they’ll probably offer their heartfelt apologies and drop the false accusations. This method effectively diffuses the unexpected bill scenario without causing too much trouble or expenditure.

Way 4 – Sign the Certification Form for the Surprise Bill:

Signing a document known as a surprise cost certification form is another method of contesting a surprise medical cost. You may also sign if your regular physician referred you to such a doctor. While treatment at an in-network hospital or outpatient surgical center will no longer need this form as of January 1, 2022, the Department of Financial Services advises filing it before 2024. It’s a means to settle any unexpected debts and expedite your appeal. 

Way 5 – Use a Medical Bill Auditor or Negotiator to Handle Your Dispute Resolution Outsourcing:

Hiring a medical bill auditor or negotiator is an easy, risk-free method to challenge unforeseen medical expenditures. They will check your invoices for inaccuracies, haggle with insurance and healthcare providers, and contest any denials for a portion of the savings they make. They are skilled and knowledgeable enough to save costs or eliminate them. 

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