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No Surprises Act: How we are protecting people from the side effects of surprise medical bills

Millions of people, including people you serve, need medical care each year. Because of internal billing processes, some patients have received surprise medical bills for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Patients generally do not see detailed costs up front, before they receive care. Afterward, they might make the decision to stay away from the health care system, just to prevent unwelcome surprises.

Now, the No Surprises Act is in effect. As of January 1, 2022, federal law protects people from some unexpected medical bills. The new protections ban certain practices, like surprise bills for emergency services, even if the services were out-of-network and without prior authorization.

Read our question and answer: What is a “surprise medical bill” and what should I know about the No Surprises Act?

Read about the No Surprises Act at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid

If a client has a question about the No Surprises Act or believes the law isn’t being followed, they can contact the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services No Surprises Help Desk at (800) 985-3059 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, seven days a week, to submit a question or a complaint. They can also submit a complaint online to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services .

In addition to the new law, existing federal laws also protect people from some negative side effects of medical bills: unlawful debt collection and credit reporting.

Side effect: What if a debt collector tries to collect on a bill that violates the No Surprises Act?

You can read our recent bulletin , which reminds debt collectors that they could be breaking a federal law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, if they try to collect on debts that are in violation of the No Surprises Act.

By law, debt collectors cannot make misrepresentations about the debts they are trying to collect. This includes telling a person they must pay a debt that came from a medical bill that exceeded the No Surprises Act limits. In court cases, rulings have stated it is against federal law to collect amounts higher than what is actually owed. Federal law prohibits unfair or unconscionable collection practices, so a debt collector could be held liable for breaking the law.

Side effect: What if a charge or debt prohibited by the No Surprises Act is sent to a credit reporting company?

Credit reporting companies put together the credit reports that most lenders (and other businesses, like banks and landlords) use to evaluate a person’s creditworthiness. The information sent to a credit reporting company could come from a debt collector, or from a medical care provider or another organization that furnishes information about debts and loans. The organization providing the information is responsible for following reasonable procedures for the accuracy of the information. Then, the credit reporting company also has a responsibility to follow reasonable procedures for accuracy when they create the person’s credit report.

The responsibilities for accurate information on credit reports apply to medical debts. Prohibited debts, like debts for bills that violate the No Surprises Act, should not appear on credit reports.

Read our question and answer: What should I know about debt collection and credit reporting if my medical bill was sent to collections?

We are committed to investigating debt collection and credit reporting problems related to the No Surprises Act and to taking action against companies that break the law.

If a debt collector contacts a client about a surprise medical bill, or if a client sees surprise medical charges listed as negative items on their credit report, you and the client can take action. For issues with a consumer financial product or service, you or the client can submit a complaint to the CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-2372.

Feel more confident about getting needed medical care

Fear of getting an unexpectedly high medical bill can mean people avoid the health care system. Especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s in everyone’s interest to make sure people understand their rights and feel secure in getting the medical care they need.

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