No more surprise medical bills! Better Call Harry explains the ‘No Surprises Act’

For elective procedures, providers are now required to give estimates and list the services that are in-network.
Updated: Jan. 7, 2022 at 5:49 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - For years, CBS46 Consumer Investigator Better Call Harry has been receiving complaints from viewers who received outrageous medical bills.

In 2019, we told the story of Toni Murray. Murray went to the ER after her car was broadsided by another driver. After eight hours in the ER, Murray walked out of the hospital with whiplash, a backache and an $80,000 financial headache.

In 2017, Sara Abercrombie suffered a stroke in the last month of her pregnancy. An emergency helicopter flew her to Grady Hospital saving both mother and child. But the flight, like the charges in Murray’s hospital visit, was out-of-network. Weeks later the family started receiving weekly calls from the air ambulance provider about the $46,000 charge.

The couple’s insurance company paid a portion of the bill, but the provider continued billing the Abercrombies for the $24,000 balance. The remaining charges were dropped after our report in 2018.

“No one should have to worry about going bankrupt after falling ill or seeking critical care,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a release.

Starting January 1, 2022, Congress’s “No Surprises Act” put an end to balance billing.

Cindi Gatton is a private patient advocate who negotiates medical bill settlements. She is hoping the new law will make her job obsolete. “I personally believe this legislation may be the most important legislation to go into effect since the Affordable Care Act, in terms of real consumer protections,” Gatton said.

For emergency room visits Gatton explains, “You can’t be held liable for any more than what your in-network deductible and out of pocket maximum are, and that’s huge.

For elective procedures, providers are now required to give estimates and list the services that are in-network. “What you don’t want to do is sign any documentation that says you waive your rights under this new no surprises billing legislation, because then you can be liable for charges not in network for your insurance,” Gatton warned.

There is one major service not included under the new law - ground ambulances. Because many are operated by local governments, Congress gave the industry an exemption.

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