Imagine your kid slips, falls, and knocks their head on a doorway. That is surprise number one. Now imagine inspecting your kid after their fall and noticing a pretty big gash on their head. Not exactly the “just rub some dirt on it, champ” type of injury. That is surprise number two.
Now imagine taking your child to the emergency room and learning that they’ll need 10 stitches. Oh boy—surprise number three. No big deal though. Kids fall all the time and all things considered, 10 stitches is not so bad.
Fast forward a few weeks later and just when you think you are done with any unexpected surprises stemming from that one incident, you get a doctor’s bill in the mail. $21,500 for ten stitches at a hospital that you thought was in your insurance company’s network. Yikes—that’s surprise number four.
That is exactly what happened to the author of this New York Times article and unfortunately it is something that a lot of Americans end up experiencing. According to a 2020 report, nearly one in five emergency room visits and up to one in six in-network hospital stays resulted in a surprise out-of-network medical bill.
When entering the hospital system, always keep receipts and always read the fine print to be better prepared against surprise medical bills
So how can something as simple as ten stitches run up a $21,500 bill? Well, it turns out that even if you visit an in-network provider, you can still be treated by an out-of-network physician that works there. The doctors that work in hospitals don’t always work FOR the hospitals. I know… that makes no sense, but it’s the system we have.
Luckily, there was a recent law that went into effect just this past January. Titled, “The No Surprises Act,” the federal law aims to prevent healthcare providers from sending surprise bills to people with private insurance.
Now even though this is a huge step in the right direction, there is still a problem. Hospitals don’t always comply with this new law, so surprise bills are still very much a problem. The solution? The new law does give people the grounds to dispute, or at the very least lower, some surprise medical bills.
The key takeaway? Our healthcare system is far from perfect… like really, really far. But this new law is a promising step in the right direction.
No one wants to get a surprise doctor’s bill in the mail, but if you do end up finding yourself in that unfortunate scenario and want to better understand if there is something you can do to dispute the charges, this article offers some good information and advice.