How to handle surprise medical bills | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

How to handle surprise medical bills

Cooper’s experience illustrates a side-effect of the fragmentation of America’s health care system that can hurt patients at their most vulnerable. Nearly a third of privately insured Americans received a surprise medical bill — where their health plan paid less than expected — in the past two years, according to a Consumer Reports National Research Center survey, with the bills often coming from doctors outside their health plan network.

Meanwhile, there is no federal regulation protecting consumers from surprise bills, although legislation was proposed by a Texas congressman this fall. While roughly a quarter of states have laws on the books, they don’t protect everyone in every situation. (Check this map by Consumers Union to see where your state stands.) Preventing such surprises is hard even with care, and the work needed to try to fix them requires time and money.

“The thing about surprise medical bills is that a lot of time it is hard to figure out what’s going on,” said Chi Chi Wu, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. “It’s a broken system.”