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Will law to end ‘surprise’ medical bills be enough?

On behalf of Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann & Knopf LLP | Sep 19, 2018 |

You can argue all you like about whether medical debt is a leading cause of bankruptcy filings in the U.S. or not. Experts regularly do. Regardless of what side of the fence you come down on, however, no one would argue that the cost of care is inexpensive.

One trip to the emergency room, even for those with stable jobs and good insurance, can lead individuals to the brink of bankruptcy, wondering what will happen if they take the plunge. The best way to learn the answer is to consult with an experienced debt relief attorney.

That catastrophic situations occur is without dispute. All it may take is the delivery of services from one or several out-of-network care providers during a medical emergency. An airlift from a crash scene or treatment from a non-network doctor in the emergency room can happen without you even being aware of it – much less being able to consent to it. The result can be tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills and dunning calls from bill collectors.

Many suggest the situation demands some form of national reckoning. But lacking action from the federal government, it seems that solutions must come from the states. In this regard, New Jersey has stepped up. As of the end of last month, a new bill took effect.

Formally called “The Out-of-network Consumer Protection, Transparency, Cost Containment and Accountability Act,” the measure seeks to kill massive unexpected bills. Specifically, it states that if out-of-network care is delivered “inadvertently” or as part of an emergency situation, the bill can’t exceed what you would owe under your insurance plan’s deductible or co-payment provisions.

Proponents of the law say surprise bills account for hundreds of millions of dollars in added health care costs every year in New Jersey and that the measure provides not just financial relief but peace of mind, as well. However, some observers say the law is rife with potential legal landmines and that implementation will be a challenge.

In the midst of all that, bankruptcy still stands among the viable ways of obtaining debt relief when necessary. And while it can be scary, it does not have to be.