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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio PIRG Education Fund launched a new consumer education campaign Tuesday about how to push back if you receive a surprise medical bill. The campaign includes a tip sheet that offers advice about avoiding and fighting surprise bills before new laws go into effect in January 2022.
Every year, millions of Americans receive surprise medical bills after unknowingly receiving treatment from a provider outside of their insurance network. Studies have shown that nearly one in five emergency room visits and hospital stays results in a surprise out-of-network bill. Although both Ohio lawmakers and Congress took action to protect consumers from surprise medical billing in December, the new protections will not go into effect for 10 more months. In the meantime, many consumers are at risk of getting these charges that can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
“No patient should have to pay an expensive and unfair surprise medical bill” said William McGovern, Ohio PIRG Education Fund health care campaigns associate. “These bills will be banned starting in 2022, but until they are, it’s important that patients know how to avoid them and what they can do if they get one.”
In Ohio, the new federal and state laws will work together when they go into effect. While Ohio’s new state law is comprehensive, the state cannot regulate all insurance plans. Certain types of employee-sponsored health plans, known as self-funded or ERISA plans, have to be federally regulated and are exempt from the state law. About 4.5 million Ohioans are insured through this type of plan. The No Surprises Act, the federal law passed in December, will protect those 4.5 million Ohioans from surprise medical bills.
“Although Ohio’s new law offers important consumer protection, Ohio PIRG Education Fund knew that a federal solution would be necessary to protect all Ohioans. That’s why we worked to pass the No Surprises Act,” said McGovern. “Thanks to this work, no insured Ohioan will be excluded from these important consumer rights.”
Beginning in 2022, both federal and state protections for Ohioans will go into effect. Between these laws, all Ohians will have protections from out-of-network providers who treat them in an emergency or when there are no in-network providers available. Patients will also be protected from surprise bills for transportation by air ambulances. The Ohio law, however, goes further than the federal law by banning surprise bills for emergency transport by ground ambulances. This means that those patients on federally regulated plans may still receive surprise bills from this common source of medical bills.
To view the tip sheet, please go to https://ohiopirgedfund.org/resources/ohf/tips-how-protect-yourself-surprise-medical-bills-ohio-0 or download a pdf here.
Ohio PIRG Education Fund is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being.
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