WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) hosted a news conference call as he pushes Congressional leaders to include bipartisan compromise language to protect patients from surprise medical bills in any year-end government funding package. Surprise medical bills harm Ohioans by charging patients for unexpected, unapproved medical costs that include emergency air ambulance trips, emergency care at an out-of-network hospital and medical services provided at an in-network facility performed by an out-of-network medical provider.
“Ohioans dealing with medical emergencies have enough to worry about. There’s no reason patients even need to be involved in these kinds of medical billing issues. And this bill takes them out of the crosshairs,” said Brown.
Brown was joined on today’s call by Ms. Charlene York, a southwest Ohioan who joined Brown last year to call for action on surprise billing issues after her daughter was billed $3000 when she was taken to an out-of-network facility for emergency care. Her daughter was covered under two different insurance plans at the time.
“In a medical emergency where it is a life and death situation, one should not have to worry if the healthcare you are receiving is within your network. And then receiving a surprise medical bill, adds to the additional stress of recovering from that medical emergency medically, mentally and financially,” said Ms. York.
Ending the practice of surprise billing is especially important amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with a record number of hospitalizations in recent weeks and the urgent need for Ohioans to receive emergency medical attention if symptoms become severe.
Brown is supporting bipartisan, bicameral compromise language announced last week, which would:
· Ensure patients are only responsible for paying the in-network cost sharing amount of healthcare services in emergencies, including air ambulance rides, and qualifying non-emergencies.
· Create a framework for healthcare providers and insurance companies to resolve payment disputes without involving the patient.
· Prohibit certain providers from ‘balance billing’ patients without written consent from the patient and at least 72-hour notice ahead of receiving out-of-network care.
This week, Brown wrote to Congressional leaders urging them to include the language in any year-end funding package and use the savings to fund Community Health Centers and other critical health providers.