When it comes to financial issues stemming from medical expenses, no one is immune. No matter what your career or background, the overwhelming bills can lead individuals to bankruptcy. Unfortunately, it can take the rest of your life to pay back those bills, and it can put a lot of stress on you financially and emotionally.
A new law that will go into effect in 2022 will help Florida residents to better deal with surprise medical bills and steer clear of financial pitfalls. In this article, we will discuss the new law and its implications – but first, let’s look at how you may find yourself in this type of situation.
Doesn’t Insurance Cover My Medical Bills?
While many people have medical insurance, many people do not. However, even those with health insurance can still be surprised with expenses their policy does not cover.
● Those with pre-existing conditions may have been turned down from obtaining medical insurance; or had a specific condition exempted.
● Those enduring an extended illness or recovery may find themselves without a job and therefore without insurance.
● Individuals laid off from their job may not be able to afford COBRA payments to keep insurance coverage in force.
● Those without insurance still get sick and injured and require medical care.
Emergency medical scenarios often put people in debt in another way. When an accident or injury occurs, the EMS may not bring the patient to an in-network hospital. While most insurance will reimburse a flat fee for emergency room visits regardless of network, they will typically not fully cover the services of the ambulance transport, the emergency room physician, the lab technician, or the surgeon.
Some people cannot afford to wait to go to an in-network team – their health and well-being are more important at the moment. Still, proactively treating the injury can lead to years of crippling expenses.
The new law targets those out-of-network expenses to protect those who require immediate care.
Out-of-Network Emergency Services To End?
When you require emergency medical services, time is often of the essence. You may not have the opportunity – or the presence of mind – to ensure that the services provided are in the proper insurance network. Healthcare providers and medical centers, unfortunately, exploit that situation, charging high fees for emergency services. These fees are typically exorbitant in relation to the fees charged for scheduled services, whether you have insurance or not.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many more Americans than usual needed emergency medical testing and care. Sadly, many could not afford this care. The approved relief legislation, which passed at the end of 2020, includes a provision that will eventually render surprise medical expenses, as we know them, just a bad memory. Beginning in 2022, when a patient visits an emergency room, the out-of-network medical professionals who care for them will be required to charge the same fees that in-network patients recharged for the same service.
Under this legislation, individuals with health insurance will no longer be saddled with extreme bills they have no hope of paying when they visit the ER in an emergency. They will likely still receive an invoice from the ambulance company, X-ray technician, or ER physician, but they will be charged the same fee that an in-network provider would charge them.
Unfortunately, the new law is not retroactive.
If you have received medical care in the past and are being harassed by creditors, call a bankruptcy attorney for advice and assistance. If you are looking for a way to be freed from the burden of exorbitant medical expenses, we can help you to determine whether bankruptcy is the right solution for you.
Richard V. Ellis is a Sarasota-based bankruptcy and family law attorney.