‘You get charged before you are seen’: Federal ban on surprise medical bills goes into effect Saturday

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Have you almost fainted on receiving an astonishing medical bill?

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Help is coming. Former President Donald Trump signed a federal rule requiring hospitals to publicly list the cost of many of their services in accessible, consumer-friendly language. This rule comes into effect from January 1, 2021. This applies to bundled services such as X-rays, outpatient visits, imaging and laboratory tests, or colonoscopy.

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If the nearest hospital emergency room is outside your insurance provider’s network, you won’t be surprised by sticker shock. Similarly, if an out-of-network physician attends a surgery or procedure in an in-network hospital, he or she will also be exempt from the surprise bill. Instead, patients only have to pay their in-network bill.

Earlier in the pandemic, men and women affected by surprising bills after being treated for COVID-19 also made headlines. A survivor who spent six weeks in a Seattle ICU ran a $1.1 million medical tab, although he was lucky enough that his insurance paid most of the bill. (In case you’re curious, how his $1,122,501.04 bill breaks down.)

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Last November, a Georgia woman spent seven hours waiting for emergency room workers to examine her head injury, and left before receiving any treatment. But the real headache began when the hospital billed her about $700 for the visit a few weeks later. “You are charged before you are seen,” Taylor Davis Told a local Fox affiliate, “I didn’t take my essentials, nobody took my name. I haven’t been seen at all. ,

According to a 2020 study of nearly 350,000 people, one in five Americans undergoing elective surgery is unexpectedly hit by out-of-network medical bills. And people with sticker shock paid an average of $2,011 more than they expected. And nearly one in five families giving birth to babies in 2019 could receive at least one astonishing bill for childbirth and/or neonatal hospitalization, with an average bill of $744, another study estimates.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)

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