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Surprise! A Cautionary Tale for Out-Of-Network Billing: The No Surprises Act and the Impact on Healthcare Providers

SURPRISE! Congress passed The No Surprises Act at the end of 2020. Providers, particularly those billing as out-of-network providers, should start thinking about strategies to comply with this new law, set to take effect on January 1, 2022. 

In its most basic sense, the new law prohibits providers from billing patients for more than the in-network cost-sharing amount in most situations where surprise bills happen. It specifically applies to non-government payers and the amounts will be set through a process described in the new law. In particular, the established in-network cost-sharing amount must be billed for the following services:

  1. Out-of-network emergency facility and professional services;
  2. Post-stabilization care at out-of-network facilities until the patient can be safely transferred to another facility;
  3. Air ambulance transports;
  4. Out-of-network services delivered at or ordered from an in-network facility unless the provider complies with the notice and consent process set forth in the new law.

In addition to the limitation on what can be billed to patients by out-of-network providers, the following is a list of other key provisions in The No Surprises Act of which out-of-network providers should be particularly aware:

  1. Providers may not hold patients liable for higher amounts or denying treatment to out-of-network patients for emergency services and certain non-emergency services.
  2. There is a required Independent Dispute Resolution (“IDR”) process that insurers and providers will be required to follow in order to settle billing disputes.
  3. For permissible balance billing, providers must comply with the prescribed notice and consent process within 72 hours of the item or service to be provided.
  4. Providers must share good faith estimates of the total expected charges for scheduled items or services, with either the insurer or patient, when the items or services are scheduled at least three days in advance or when requested by the patient.
  5. All health care providers must make publicly available information on patient’s rights with respect to balance billing. Providers will need to make this notice available on their websites too.

Providers should understand that the Act permits states to require providers to adhere to these provisions and enforce compliance. Even if your state does not enforce compliance, the HHS Secretary is able to issue civil penalties up to $10,000 per violation.

Future Updates

By July 1, 2021 the Secretaries of HHS, Labor and Treasury must issue regulations regarding the qualifying cost-sharing amounts. The Secretary of HHS must also issue further guidance regarding the notice and consent process by July 1, 2021.

As of now, the IDR process will be effective January 1, 2022; however, the Secretaries of HHS, Labor and Treasury may change the process and issue the final regulations by December 27, 2021.

Stay tuned as regulations are finalized and more information becomes available.

If you are interested in learning more about The No Surprises Act, policies and forms you can use to comply with The No Surprises Act, or out-of-network billing in general, please contact Healthcare and Hospital Law Member Jeana M. Singleton at jmsingleton@bmdllc.com or 330-253-2001, or any member of the BMD Healthcare and Hospital Law group.

New York, Kansas, Massachusetts, and Delaware Become the latest States to Adopt Full Practice Authority for Nurse Practitioners

While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly created many obstacles and hardships, it also created many opportunities to try doing things differently. This can be seen in the instant rise of remote work opportunities, telehealth visits, and virtual meetings. Many States took the challenges of the pandemic and turned them into an opportunity to adjust the regulations governing licensed professionals, including for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

Explosive Growth in Pot of Gold Opportunity for Bank (and Other) Cannabis Lenders Driving Erosion of the Barriers

Our original article on bank lending to the cannabis industry anticipated that the convergence of interest between banks and the cannabis industry would draw more and larger banks to the industry. Banks were awash in liquidity with limited deployment options, while bankable cannabis businesses had rapidly growing needs for more and lower cost credit. Since then, the pot of gold opportunity for banks to lend into the cannabis industry has grown exponentially due to a combination of market constraints on equity causing a dramatic shift to debt and the ever-increasing capital needs of one of the country’s fastest growing industries. At the same time, hurdles to entry of new banks are being systematically cleared as the yellow brick road to the cannabis industry’s access to the financial markets is being paved, brick by brick, by the progressively increasing number and size of banks that are now entering the market.

2021 EEOC Charge Statistics: Retaliation & Impact of Remote Work

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its detailed information on workplace discrimination charges it received in 2021. Unsurprisingly, for the second year in a row, the total number of charges decreased as COVID-19 either shut down workplaces or disconnected employees from each other. In 2021, the agency received a total of approximately 61,000 workplace discrimination charges - the fewest in 25 years by a wide margin. For reference, the agency received over 67,000 charges in 2020, and averaged almost 90,000 charges per year over the previous 10 years.

Ohio’s Managed Care Overhaul Delayed – New Implementation Timeline

At the direction of Governor Mike DeWine, the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) launched the Medicaid Managed Care Procurement process in 2019. ODM’s stated vision for the procurement was to focus on people and not just the business of managed care. This is the first structural change to Ohio’s managed care system since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) approval of Ohio’s Medicaid program in 2005. Initially, all of the new managed care programs were supposed to be implemented starting on July 1, 2022. However, ODM Director Maureen Corcoran recently confirmed that this date will be pushed back for several managed care-related programs.

Laboratory Specimen Collection Arrangements with Contract Hospitals - OIG Advisory Opinion 22-09

On April 28, 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) published an Advisory Opinion[1] in which it evaluated a proposed arrangement where a network of clinical laboratories (the “Requestor”) would compensate hospitals (each a “Contract Hospital”) for specimen collection, processing, and handling services (“Collection Services”) for laboratory tests furnished by the Requestor (the “Proposed Arrangement”). The OIG concluded that the Proposed Arrangement would generate prohibited remuneration under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”) if the requisite intent were present. This is due to both the possibility that the proposed per-patient-encounter fee would be used to induce or reward referrals to Requestor and the associated risk of improperly steering patients to Requestor.