What Can You Do About Surprise Medical Bills?

1 year ago 27

In February 2020, Steve Morrow took his wife, Kris, to get an eye procedure for a degenerative eye condition called keratoconus.

They weren’t sure how much the procedure would cost -- Kris’s doctor said it would depend on how bad her eye was and how involved the procedure would be. But since it was done in the doctor’s office, they were only responsible for a $50 copay. Their PPO insurance plan would cover the rest.

“We paid a copay for the procedure and thought we were done,” says Morrow, who runs the kayaking website Paddle About in Gilbert, AZ. “Three months later, we got a bill for $3,550 from the provider.”

It didn’t stop there. Even after repeated phone calls to their insurance company and the provider, the bills kept coming.

Surprise Billing Is Common

The Morrows aren’t alone when it comes to surprise billing -- when you get a bill for medical services that’s a lot higher than you expected it to be.

“Surprise medical bills have reached an all-time high,” says Gail Trauco, an oncology nurse and patient advocate who founded Medical Bill 911 to help people deal with these unexpected charges.

About 20% of hospital bills have surprise charges, she says, even for people who are fully insured. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there are millions of surprise bills every year.

The costs add up. If your plan doesn’t cover out-of-network care, your insurance company may completely deny coverage. Or you might be responsible for paying the difference between what insurance covers and what you get charged (a practice known as bala...

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