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 isn’t 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.
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 and give up your protections not to be balanced billed for these post-stabilization services.
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 the health 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 also aren’t required to get care out-of-network. You can choose a provider or facility in the health plan’s network.
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). The plan will pay out-of-network providers and facilities directly.
Under the No Surprises Act, health plans generally must:
If you believe you’ve been wrongly billed, you may contact the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) No Surprises Helpdesk at 1-800-985-3059 or visit the HHS No Surprises website at www.cms.gov/nosurprises/consumers.
Visit https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/laws-and-regulations/laws/no-surprises-act for more information about your rights under federal law.