Billing Disclosures – Your Rights and Protections Against Surprise Medical Bills
When you receive emergency care or are treated by an out-of-network provider at an in-network hospital or ambulatory surgical center, you are protected from surprise billing.
What is “surprise billing”?
When you see a doctor or other health care provider, you may owe certain out-of-pocket costs, such as a copayment, coinsurance, and/or a deductible. You may have other costs or have to pay the entire bill if you see a provider or visit a health care facility that is not in your health plan’s network.
“Out-of-network” describes providers and facilities that haven’t signed a contract with your health plan. Out-of-network providers may be permitted to bill you for the difference between what your plan agreed to pay, and the full amount charged for a service. This is called “balance billing.” This amount is likely more than in-network costs for the same service and might not count toward your annual out-of-pocket limit.
“Surprise billing” is an unexpected balance bill. This can happen when you can’t control who is involved in your care–like when you have an emergency or when you schedule a visit at an in-network facility but are unexpectedly treated by an out-of-network provider.
You are protected under federal law and Georgia law from surprise billing in certain circumstances:
Emergency services. If you have an emergency medical condition and get emergency services from an out-of-network provider or facility, the most the provider or facility may bill you is your plan’s in-network cost-sharing amount (such as copayments and coinsurance). You can’t be balance billed for these emergency services. This includes services you may get after you’re in stable condition unless you give written consent to be balance billed for these post-stabilization services.
Certain services at an in-network hospital or ambulatory surgical center.* When you get services from an in-network hospital or ambulatory surgical center, certain providers there may be out-of-network. In these cases, the most those providers may bill you is your plan’s in-network cost-sharing amount. This applies to emergency medicine, anesthesia, pathology, radiology, laboratory, neonatology, assistant surgeon, hospitalist, or intensivist services. These providers can’t balance bill you and may not ask you to give up your protections not to be balance billed. If you get other services at these in-network facilities, out-of-network providers can’t balance bill you, unless you give written consent and give up your protections. You’re never required to give up your protections from balance billing. You are never required to get services from an out-of-network provider or facility. You can choose a provider or facility in your plan’s network.
*Under Georgia law, these protections also apply to services received at imaging centers, birthing centers, and similar facilities, in addition to hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers. Georgia law protections are applicable if you have a fully insured commercial health insurance plan or government plan regulated under Georgia law.
Uninsured/self-pay patients. Some provisions of the No Surprises Act are inapplicable to patients who are uninsured or who are self-pay. Instead, uninsured/self-pay patients are generally entitled to a “good faith estimate” for non-emergency services.
When balance billing isn’t allowed, you also have the following protections:
You are only responsible for paying your share of the cost (like the copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles that you would pay if the provider or facility was in-network). Your health plan will pay out-of-network providers and facilities directly.
Your health plan generally must cover emergency services without requiring you to get approval for services in advance (prior authorization); cover emergency services by out-of-network providers; base what you owe the provider or facility (cost-sharing) on what it would pay an in-network provider or facility and show that amount in your explanation of benefits; and count any amount you pay for emergency services or out-of-network services towards your deductible and out-of-pocket limit.
If you believe you’ve been wrongly billed, you may contact:
Your provider and/or your health plan for an explanation. If you believe you were wrongly billed for emergency services, ask your health plan if they processed your claim as an emergency.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or visit https://www.cms.gov/nosurprises for more information about your rights under federal law.
- The Georgia Office of the Commissioner of Insurance and Safety Fire online or by phone at (404) 656-2070.