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"No Surprises Act" Could Stop Unexpected Medical Bills


Monday, January 3, 2022   

A new federal law, the "No Surprises Act," expands state protections already in place in New Hampshire to prevent surprise medical billing.

In 2018, Granite State lawmakers passed a law prohibiting what's known as "balance billing" of patients with fully-funded health plans, for anesthesiologists, pathologists, radiologists and emergency physicians - the four disciplines most likely to bill patients for whatever their insurance doesn't cover.

Now, New Hampshire Insurance Department's Deputy Commissioner D.J. Bettencourt said the federal No Surprises Act extends those protections to most aspects of commercial insurance, and to people with self-insured health plans.

"Patients often have no idea that the facility or the provider is out-of-network until they receive the bill," said Bettencourt.

Bettencourt noted the average balance bill in New Hampshire is $600, which can be significant especially when a person isn't able to plan ahead for it.

Surveys show nearly half of Americans say worrying about unexpected medical bills keeps them from seeking care.

Bettencourt said in many cases, services are either blended between in-network and out-of-network providers, or the bills pile up in emergency situations where care is required at the nearest facility.

He said he hopes the new federal law will give people that peace of mind that they're not going to be hit with unexpected charges.

"The average is $600, but obviously it could be more than that," said Bettencourt. "That fear is hopefully being removed and so, people should have confidence to go out there and get the care that they need and not risk their life or health."

Bettencourt added that even with the federal law, state regulators will be in charge of enforcement, so Granite Staters can contact the New Hampshire Insurance Department if they believe they've encountered a balance bill.

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