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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.

COVID, Privacy and More! New Challenges for Physicians in 2021

While hopefully we are coming out of the pandemic, the legal repercussions related to legislative initiatives and other actions during that time continue to apply to businesses in general and healthcare practices. It is a helpful reminder that practices make certain that they maintain accurate records in order to satisfy the reporting requirements under the various COVID-related bills and protect yourself from future employment claims.

Banking and Cannabis: Bank Lending, The Next Frontier

A fortuitous combination of developments and circumstances present the banking and cannabis industries a large opportunity to enhance each of their respective bottom lines: conventional bank lending, payment processing, treasury management and other services, and bank administered SBA and revenue bond financing to cannabis businesses.

EKRA Updates: COVID-19 Testing, Employment Agreements, and More

Ever since the Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act (“EKRA”) was passed by Congress in 2018, we have been waiting to see how the law is interpreted and ultimately enforced. As a reminder, EKRA seeks to eliminate kickbacks in return for patient referrals to facilities that treat those overcoming addiction, such as recovery homes, clinical treatment centers, and laboratories. (NOTE: EKRA applies to all laboratories, not just those related to addiction treatment.) It is essentially an expansion of the Anti-Kickback Statute, which only applies to those services that are reimbursable through federal healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, to now also cover services reimbursable through private insurers.

New Interpretation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Rocks the Industry

It’s not lost on us that our interpretation of § 1692c(b) runs the risk of upsetting the status quo in the debt-collection industry. This quote from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal in its April 21, 2021 opinion from the case of Hunstein v. Preferred Collection and Management Services, Inc. is possibly the biggest understatement in the history of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. At a minimum, the Eleventh Circuit’s opinion has sent shockwaves and fear throughout multiple sectors of the financial services industry.

Construction Industry Trends and Predictions Through 2021 and Beyond: Insurance and Emerging Threats

A 2021 survey identified three key issues impacting the construction industry in 2021: (1) the financial health of contractors; (2) the continuing risk of the pandemic; and (3) technology driving productivity, but also increasing the risk of cybersecurity threats. With this backdrop, insurance premiums in the construction industry are generally on the rise in 2021.