HHS Publishes Report on Surprise Medical Bills

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) this week released a new report finding that millions of Americans with private health insurance experience some kind of surprise medical billing. The report, developed by the HHS Office of Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, found that surprise medical bills are relatively common and can average more than $1,200 for anesthesiology services, $2,600 for surgical assistants, and $750 for childbirth-related care. HHS notes that while many states have taken steps to address surprise billing, critical gaps that exist nationwide will be addressed when the No Surprises Act takes effect in 2022.

According to HHS, an estimated 18 percent of emergency room visits by individuals with large employer coverage resulted in one or more out-of-network charges ranging from a low of three percent in Minnesota to a high of 38 percent in Texas. Patients receiving a surprise bill for emergency care paid physicians more than 10 times as much as patients without a surprise bill for emergency care.

The Biden-Harris Administration has issued a series of regulations that, starting in January 2022, will provide patients with individual or employer health coverage relief from surprise medical billing and reduce health care costs. Individuals with most individual and employer insurance can no longer be balanced-billed for emergency and certain non-emergency services in most circumstances. Patients will be removed from payment disputes that must be settled between providers and insurers. Further, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has predicted that the No Surprises Act will reduce health insurance premiums for consumers.

Additional information about the HHS report and the No Surprises Act is available here.