Got medical bill shock? Consumers Union wants Florida examples

ambulanceState legislators resume debate on legislation to stop surprise medical bills in Florida on Monday, and a national consumer group is calling for examples to help make a difference.

“A gaping loophole in Florida state law allows doctors and hospitals to hit you with these surprise bills,” an email to Florida residents from Consumers Union says. “We can close this loophole, but we need a simple thing from you:

“If you have been hit with a surprise medical bill — a charge you thought your insurance should have covered — tell us about it now. We expect Florida lawmakers will take up legislation soon that could protect you from these medical bills, but your story is needed to get the new law passed!”

The email contains this link: https://consumersunion.org/share-your-surprise-medical-bill-story/

The Palm Beach Post also welcomes examples from readers willing to share their stories for possible inclusion in articles. Email reporter Charles Elmore at celmore@pbpost.com

The issue is sometimes called “balance billing.”  It happens when a doctor or other medical provider out of your health plan’s network can’t agree on a charge with your insurer, so they bill you for the whole difference –sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. It affects one in three consumers nationally, surveys show, and can lead to wiped-out savings, bankruptcies or ruined credit.

There’s generally no problem when a consumer knows in advance what out-of-network provider will cost out of pocket and willingly chooses that. The problem comes when consumers who are trying to be responsible  — they have an insurance plan and want to pay their bills — find themselves blindsided. In an emergency situation, they have no realistic way to shop around or figure out who is in network. Surprises can also happen when they choose an in-network hospital, only to be slammed by a whopping bill they did not see coming from an out-of-network provider there, like a doctor or radiologist.

SB 1442 is scheduled to be heard in the Florida Senate healthy policy committee Monday afternoon. The state’s insurance consumer advocate applauded a “great start” for another bill, HB 221,  in the House earlier this month. The House bill says consumers can be hit with no more than the equivalent of in-network charges in emergencies. Insurers and medical providers have to work out their differences in arbitration if necessary, but they can’t just make it the consumer’s problem.

Similar legislation stalled before passage last year, though, as insurers and medical providers lobbied from opposing sides. That’s why all this matters, groups like Consumers Union say.

“If you’ve had a surprise medical bill in Florida, tell us your story,” the email says. “It could make the difference!”

 

 

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