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04.01.2019 / Press Release

Statement: Frederick Isasi Will Testify at the House Education and Labor Committee Hearing on Surprise Medical Bills– Will Tell Congress that “Distorted Economic Incentives in the Health Care Sector are Overwhelming the Interests of Patients and Families”

Testimony Calls for immediate action to help families from experiencing financial turmoil

Washington, D.C–Tomorrow, Frederick Isasi, Families USA executive director, will testify at the House Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions hearing, “The Impact of Surprise, Out-of-Network Medical Bills on Consumers.”

Isasi’s testimony will underscore how surprise medical bills puts people’s financial well-being in jeopardy when, every time they go to the doctor or hospital, they don’t know if they will be spending $500, $1,000, $5,000 or even much more. This happens despite families enrolling in health insurance, paying their premiums, doing their homework, and trying to work within the system. How are they ‘rewarded’ for their due diligence following their plan’s policies and procedures? With stacks of completely unanticipated and sometimes financially devastating health care bills because an overwhelming amount of hospitals, doctors, and insurers are washing their hands of their patients’ interests.

One of the key issues exacerbating this problem is the trend for hospitals to off-load staffing requirements for their emergency departments to third-party management companies. These hospitals very often make no requirements staff provided by these third-party companies are part of the insurance networks agreed to by the hospitals. As a result, patients facing medical emergencies who do their homework ahead of time and rightly think they are going to an in-network hospital, unknowingly receive services from an out-of-network physician and a surprise medical bill follows.
To illustrate this, Isasi will use the example of Nicole Briggs of Morrison, Colorado. Nicole faced an unexpected hospital bill of nearly $5,000 after requiring an emergency appendectomy. She confirmed that the hospital and its providers where she received treatment accepted her insurance. However, she got a surprise medical bill from the surgeon months later because the surgeon was an independent, out-of-network provider. Nicole, who was pregnant and preparing to take maternity leave at the time, faced having her wages garnished and a lien being placed on her house because the insurer demanded payment—even after she explained the situation—and turned the bill over to a collection agency.

“Nicole’s situation highlights that surprise, out-of-network medical bills are truly an egregious example of how our health care system is allowing consumers’ costs to spin out-of-control. Many working families are living paycheck to paycheck and do not have extra income to allocate to these unforeseen expenses. Families USA is urging Congress to take immediate action to stop surprise medical bills from continuing to wreak havoc on the lives of vulnerable people like Nicole and millions of families across the nation. These are hard-working people who play by the insurers’ rules and they deserve better.” Isasi said.