Medical debt is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy. Many of the people who become overwhelmed by medical debt have health insurance. However, even that isn’t always enough to protect Americans from losing all their savings and still owing money if they or a loved one suffers a serious injury or health crisis.
The cost of out-of-network care is often a culprit. While people can typically find doctors and medical facilities in their network for routine or even specialized care, you don’t have that luxury if you’re involved in a car crash or a loved one suffers a stroke or heart attack.
Out-of-network bills can result from in-network care
You may have no choice about where you go for treatment – and in those moments, you don’t care. However, the resulting bills can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. Even if you go to a hospital that’s in your health insurance network, you might be treated by an anesthesiologist or other doctor who isn’t in the network. It’s been estimated that about a fifth of all emergency care visits involves at least one out-of-network provider.
That’s exactly what lawmakers in Congress were addressing with the No Surprises Act, which took effect on Jan. 1 of this year. Under the law, people who receive emergency care or are treated in a facility they didn’t choose are only responsible for the amount that they would pay if the facility and all of the providers who bill them are in their health insurance network.
How much difference will the new law make?
The No Surprises Act is predicted to impact around 10 million medical bills every year. However, it is not retroactive. Even moving forward, while it will help, it won’t mean the end of crippling medical bills for many Americans. A serious injury, chronic condition or devastating diagnosis like cancer can result in many thousands of dollars in medical bills, even with good health insurance and in-network treatment.
If your medical debt is affecting your finances to the point where you’re having difficulty keeping up with everyday expenses, it’s wise to explore all of your options for getting back on track – including bankruptcy. With experienced legal guidance, you can make the best choice for yourself and your family.