One year after implementation of the No Surprises Act (NSA), the law is largely protecting consumers from the most pervasive forms of surprise billing, but remaining gaps leave some patients with unexpected financial liabilities.
Surprise balance billing occurs when insured patients receive out-of-network care and are billed for the difference between what their insurer will cover and what the care provider seeks as full payment.
Despite multiple ongoing lawsuits related to the implementation of the NSA, consumers appear to be well-protected from the most pervasive balance billing practices, such as billing for air ambulance services, that previously left them with unexpected medical bills.
Close monitoring of the NSA is needed, with concerns about consumer awareness of the NSA’s provisions.
Opportunities to expand the scope of the law’s consumer protections remain. Notably, the failure to include emergency ground ambulance services in provider networks means many people will continue to be billed for out-of-network services incurred in an emergency.
Researchers say it’s too early to assess whether the NSA will encourage broader provider networks or constrain growth in health insurance premiums.
Researchers indicate the No Surprises Act is protecting patients from costly payment disputes. However, gaps in the law leave some people vulnerable to continued surprise bills—often after an emergency—and further consumer protections are required to protect consumers from unexpected charges.
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