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1 in 3 Face “Surprise” Medical Bills: Protections Pending in Hartford

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PHOTO: A new Consumers Union Survey finds one-in-three Americans are being hit with a surprise medical bill from an out-of-network provider, but the good news is Connecticut lawmakers appear to be ready to take action on the issue. Credit: Mike Clifford
PHOTO: A new Consumers Union Survey finds one-in-three Americans are being hit with a surprise medical bill from an out-of-network provider, but the good news is Connecticut lawmakers appear to be ready to take action on the issue. Credit: Mike Clifford
May 11, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. - Nearly one-in-three Americans has experienced the pain of a "surprise" medical bill in the past two years, according to a new national survey, and advocates are hoping Connecticut lawmakers will take action.

Chuck Bell, program director with Consumers Union, says these unplanned medical bills can range anywhere from $25 to $10,000 and more.

"It's not always easy for patients to avoid these bills," says Bell. "Despite your best efforts to stay in-network, sometimes you are going to be slapped with an out-of-network fee you didn't really expect and can't really control."

Bell says only 28 percent of those responding to their national survey were satisfied with how their issue was resolved. Consumers flooded Twitter on Friday using the hashtag #SurpriseMedBills.

Bell says Connecticut does provide some protections against unplanned out-of-network expenses, but more needs to be done.

"There is a law that is under consideration in Connecticut, SB 808, that would improve consumer protections for surprise out-of-network bills, so it's possible the Connecticut Legislature is going to take action on that this session."

Bell says 87 percent of people in their survey did not know the agency in state government that is tasked with handling complaints about health insurance.

"What we are trying to do is to hook consumers up with resources that can help them, and so we created an on-line complaint tool, so consumers can easily find their state insurance department," he says. "Also a nonprofit consumer assistance program, if their state has one."

The survey of more than 2,000 adult U.S. residents was conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. Help tool on web at ConsumersUnion.org/insurance-complaint-tool

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - CT