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11.13.2019 / Press Release

Congress Letting Our Nation Down: New Poll Shows Nearly 90% of Voters Want Congress to Act Immediately to Pass Legislation to Protect Patients from Surprise Medical Bills

Washington, D.C., November 13, 2019 – Nearly 9 in 10 voters support legislation to protect patients from surprise out-of-network medical bills and nearly 80% said that when they received such a bill they struggled to pay it. Released yesterday, those findings represent results from a national poll on consumer sentiments about surprise medical bills.

Families USA sponsored the poll, which asked voters about their experiences with surprise medical bills and feelings about legislation to protect consumers from these bills. Surprise medical bills occur when people are charged for care from out-of-network providers or facilities they receive due to no fault of their own. These bills can amount to hundreds, thousands, or even tens-of-thousands of dollars.

The poll, which was conducted in the last few weeks, also found that:

  • Across party lines, there is strong support for surprise medical bill legislation. Ninety-seven percent of Democrats, 88% of Independents and 74% of Republicans said it is important that their elected officials support legislation to protect patients from surprise medical bills.
  • 60% were worried that they or a family member would receive a surprise medical bill that would be hard to pay
  • Voters prefer, more than 9 to 1, a bill that pays doctors and hospitals based on what doctors in the area are typically paid and would be less likely to lead to higher premiums. Survey respondents were told there are two bills being considered by Congress. After reading brief descriptions, they preferred the bill that pays doctors and hospitals that send surprise bills the “market rate” over the bill that allows doctors and hospitals to still charge fees high above the market rate (73% vs 8%)
  • Voters have strong, negative reactions to the Doctor-Patient Unity ad campaign attacking proposals to protect patients from surprise bills. Sixteen percent say they have seen them and offered words like “disgusting” and “corrupt” when told about corporations paying for these ads. Nearly 3 in 4 voters (74%) are concerned that this ad campaign could mean that Congress fails to pass a bipartisan bill on surprise medical bills before the end of the year.

“That’s really not what you’re thinking about when you’re having life-threatening symptoms, like ‘hmm, I wonder which of these hospitals might be in my network.'” Nicki Pogue, a consumer from San Francisco, CA, recalling her reaction after she received a surprise medical bill from an out-of-network hospital.

The poll, which was conducted by non-partisan research firm Perry Undem, represents a sample of 1,000 registered voters using YouGov’s national online panel fielded October 16 – 22, 2019. It augments Families USA’s on-going efforts to address surprise medical bills—a particularly egregious health care cost for consumers that also eroded health care value. The organization is rolling out a $250,000 digital ad campaign demanding Congress pass a bill this year to protect consumers against surprise medical bills. And in September, the group launched No Surprises: People Against Unfair Medical Bills with groups representing consumers, patients and workers aimed at urging Congress to act immediately to ban surprise medical bills. Visit nosurprisescampaign.org to learn more.

“This poll underscores the real fear families have about a current, past or future surprise medical bill,” said Frederick Isasi, Families USA’s executive director. “It is not remarkable that nearly 90% of voters want Congress to pass legislation to protect them from receiving a surprise medical bill. The fact that most of them feel powerless and say they need Congress to act should be the fuel that gets elected officials to take immediate action and stop this financial hemorrhaging that is damaging consumers’ livelihoods — in many instances, preventing them from seeking the care they need and deserve.”