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Patients in Chattanooga area now protected from surprise medical bills by federal law

File photo: Getty Images.
File photo: Getty Images.
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A federal law that went into effect at the first of the year is designed to keep patients from getting a major surprise in the mailbox.

The No Surprises Act will protect millions of patients by stopping surprise medical bills.

A report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says it protects patients with most individual and employer insurance plans by no longer allowing them to be balance-billed for emergency and certain non-emergency services in most circumstances.

Linda Murray was one of those patients that didn't see expect to see a large medical bill in the mail. She spent 25 days on the hospital after testing positive for COVID-19.

When the hospital charge came, it was $211,000. And I was like, Whoa, that was a lot of money. So that was a rude awakening" says Murray

But some people have concerns about a provision in the bill and have filed a lawsuit against the federal government.

"This has been a pervasive and abusive billing practice by some providers to take advantage of the situations where the patient has no ability to choose," Health Care Campaigns Director for U.S. PRG, Patricia Kelmar said.

Patients will also not be in the middle of billing disputes between providers and insurers and the congressional budget office predicts the law will reduce health insurance premiums.

We can now go to emergency rooms and get emergency care without worrying about an out-of-network charge," Kelmar said.

But, the American Hospital Association and American Medical Association have sued the federal government challenging a provision of the rule issued in September aimed at determining fair payment for services by out-of-network providers.

In a joint statement, the organizations say, "the billing resolution process also should not impede patient access to care by making fewer caregivers available in their insurance network. This is why the aha and ama are asking the court to bring the regulations in line with the patient-friendly, balanced approach congress intended."

The lawsuit is not expected to stop the core of the law from moving forward.

The law will require a national hotline to be established where consumers can register complaints about suspected surprise medical billing.

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