Federal law protecting patients from surprise medical bills still on hold

New regulations requiring medical facilities to give patients more information about their expected bills up-front are still on hold.

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Signed into law at the end of 2020, the “No Surprises Act” was supposed to go into effect with the New Year.

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Designed to prevent surprises during the billing process, it would require medical facilities to provide an estimate for services up-front for some patients, instead of weeks after a procedure.

“Surprise billing is a market failure,’ Medical Provider Sean Cavanaugh said. “Patients don’t have the time or the information necessary to shop to avoid these bills.”

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The No Surprises Act is aimed at unexpected bills that might come from an out-of-network provider, or at a facility that is out-of-network, but it’s been put on hold. The Department of Health and Human Services announced that they would delay enforcing it due to “pending rulemaking.”

Cynthia Fisher is a patient rights advocate who says focusing on this particular issue is long overdue. She says there’s a reason why medical facilities aren’t generally eager to share billing information with their patients up-front.

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“When we can see quality and outcomes, and the lowest possible prices, well that drives the cost of care down tremendously,” Fisher said.

Department of Health and Human Services officials say they’ll give plenty of warning to doctors’ offices when they plan to begin enforcing the rule, but they haven’t made it clear when that might be.

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