Law to stop surprise medical billing goes into effect this weekend

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNN) – The new year will also ring in a new law. Supporters say it’ll protect millions of patients by stopping surprise medical bills, but some have concerns about a provision in the bill and have filed a lawsuit against the federal government. It’s called the “No Surprises Act,” new federal protections for patients against surprise medical bills.

Patricia Kelmar is the director of health care campaigns at U.S. Public Interest Research Groups. She explained, “This has been a pervasive and abusive billing practice by some providers to take advantage of the situations where the patient has no ability to choose.”

The law’s set to go into effect on January 1st, 2022.

A report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it protects patients with most individual and employer insurance plans by no longer allowing them to be balance-billed for emergency and certain non-emergency services in most circumstances. Patients will also not be in the middle of billing disputes between providers and insurers.

The Congressional Budget Office predicts the law will reduce health insurance premiums.

Kelmar said, “We can now go to emergency rooms and get emergency care without worrying about an out-of-network charge.”

But, the American Hospital Association and American Medical Association have sued the federal government, challenging a provision of the rule issued in September aimed at determining fair payment for services by out-of-network providers.

In a joint statement, the organizations said, “The billing resolution process also should not impede patient access to care by making fewer caregivers available in their insurance network. This is why the AHA and AMA are asking the court to bring the regulations in line with the patient-friendly, balanced approach congress intended.”

The lawsuit is not expected to stop the core of the law from moving forward.

The law will require a national hotline to be established where consumers can register complaints about suspected surprise medical billing.

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