Consumers agree insurers are to blame for surprise billing

As surprise billing solutions are more readily being talked about in Congress and among healthcare leaders in the industry, Americans are blaming their insurance companies for the problem, according to a recent survey from Morning Consult and the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Surprise billing­­­­––when patients receive sky-high medical bills weeks after receiving care, often for out-of-network care––is a significant burden to Americans, with 1 in 7 patients receiving a surprise medical bill. A whopping 81% of Americans believe their insurance companies should pay for surprise medical bills, according to the survey, which queried 1,500 registered voters from May 31 to June 1.

At the heart of the problem is that patients often don’t know they are receiving out-of-network care. And in the case of an emergency, shopping around for care that is in-network isn’t always an option, or a good idea, as it can delay vital care. More than half––54%––of survey respondents said they received a surprise bill because their insurance did not cover the medical treatment they received.

However, even those with insurance wish it was cheaper––59% wish their insurance company offered plans with lower deductibles to better afford the care they need.

Despite the strong desire for insurance companies to step up when it comes to surprise billing, Americans are wary of solutions that include Congress capping rates for out-of-network providers, particularly for smaller communities. The majority––63%––of Americans are concerned about the effect government rate setting would have on small communities facing hospital and doctor shortages. Another 67% believe Congress should protect healthcare for those living in rural communities.

Another option on the table is implementing an independent dispute resolution (IDR) process. Compared to rate setting, 69% of Americans prefer the third-party solution, the survey found.

The findings of the survey and the opinions of American patients come at a time when the Trump administration is pushing for the end of surprise billing. In May, the administration released a set of principles that should guide any future legislation to address the issue.

Congress has also recently introduced the Lower Health Care Costs Act, which bans balance billing and requires health insurance companies to cover out-of-network doctors for care, with a median in-network fee for treatments attached.