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WASHINGTON— PIRG delivered a petition to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Thursday signed by 5,660 concerned Americans asking for strong protections from unavoidable out-of-network medical bills.The No Surprises Act was signed into law in December, 2020, and the first set of implementing regulations are due by July 1, 2021. The Act bans out-of-network charges for patients receiving emergency care or services at an in-network hospital. The law also protects consumers from out-of-network charges from air ambulances.
“This landmark consumer protection law, if implemented well, will go a long way in protecting patients from most surprise out-of-network bills,” said Patricia Kelmar, PIRG’s health care campaigns director. “Citizens want to make sure that Secretary Becerra is putting their interests first when writing the regulations for the No Surprises Act.”
One in five Americans who visit an emergency room or have surgery receive a surprise medical bill. With the average emergency room surprise bill costing about $600 — and sometimes many times more — these bills can often deplete patients’ savings accounts, driving them into medical debt.
“Although the law has passed Congress, opponents are now trying to weaken it by attacking consumer protection through the regulation-writing process,” said Kelmar. “We circulated this petition because we want to be sure that Secretary Becerra listens to the needs of patients and not the health care industry that has been profiting from underhanded billing practices for years.”
The petition calls on the secretary to “close the loopholes” and provide clear enforcement power to state regulators to stop surprise billing. It also asks for rules that establish a “smart arbitration system that won't inflate health care costs which would simply shift costs right back on us.”
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