No Surprises Act Having Big Impact on Number of Medical Bills: Report

The No Surprises Act reportedly prevented more than 2 million medical bills during its first two months in effect and could ultimately keep individuals from receiving 12 million medical bills during its first year, according to a report that was issued this week by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and AHIP, a trade group for health insurance providers. That is likely welcome news to individuals across the country, because a separately released report from the Federal Reserve Board revealed that 20% of people had a “major, unexpected” medical expense in the past 12 months.

The No Surprises Act went into effect on January 1 and prohibits healthcare providers from billing individuals who have healthcare insurance and were treated at an out-of-network facility from being charged anything more than what their in-network costs would have been. The objective of the bill is to keep individuals, many of whom are in emergency situations, from being treated at an out-of-network facility and being billed as if they did not have medical insurance. Estimates peg as many as 20% of people who are treated in emergency situations receive a surprise medical bill.

“The No Surprises Act has … provided undeniable financial protection to millions of Americans,” said Kim Keck, the President and Chief Executive of Blue Cross Blue Shield of America, in a statement.

Meanwhile, nearly a lot of people skipped getting treated by a doctor or dentist last year, mainly because they could not afford it, according to the Fed’s Survey of Household Ecomomics and Decisionmaking (SHED). Twenty-four percent did so in 2021, which was up from 23% in 2020, but still well below the high-water mark of 32% set in 2013. Income was a strong determinant of whether someone skipped medical care or not. Among those with family incomes of less than $25,000, 38% went without some medical care in 2021, compared with 9% of households that made at least $100,000.

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