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Whopper NY Medical Bills – Seeking Legislative Relief

PHOTO: Several groups are calling on New York lawmakers to require more transparency about which networks doctors belong to, so consumers aren't surprised with unexpected bills that insurance won't cover. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
PHOTO: Several groups are calling on New York lawmakers to require more transparency about which networks doctors belong to, so consumers aren't surprised with unexpected bills that insurance won't cover. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
June 14, 2013

NEW YORK – It even happens to New Yorkers who have good health insurance coverage – surprise medical bills that can total tens of thousands of dollars.

That's why consumer and health advocates are calling on lawmakers to protect consumers from the unexpected.

Joclyn Krevat says she was on life support and clearly in no position to be thinking about out-of-network providers.

Her husband is a New York teacher with good health benefits. She was at a New York hospital, so they figured everything would be OK.

But, about two weeks after she got home they checked the mail.

"I started getting enormous bills,” she recalls. “You know I thought this was a huge mistake, because I went into this thinking I had really good health insurance, but it wasn't a mistake, this is what they do."

Krevat was hit with more than $70,000 in surprise medical bills because out-of-network doctors saved her life.

With the help of Consumer Health Advocates and the State Department of Financial Services, her bill has been greatly reduced, but she believes lawmakers need to pass legislation to protect fellow New Yorkers from surprise medical bills.

Chuck Bell with New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage says his organization gets a steady flow of thousands of complaints about unexpected, and often very expensive, medical bills.

"We have about 2,000 people every year complaining that they have surprise medical bills,” he says. “We think we need better ground rules in the market place to give consumers fair warning when they're going to have a bill that's going to come in much higher than they would expect.

“So, we've been talking to the governor and Senate and Assembly leaders about passing legislation to prevent this problem."

New York lawmakers have already proposed measures that require hospitals to provide patients with information about the network affiliation of doctors.

Bell says greater disclosure is needed and New Yorkers should be held harmless if they were not aware providers were not in their network.


Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY