January 4, 2022

Around the nation: New federal law bans many surprise medical bills

Daily Briefing

    Effective Jan. 1, a new federal law bans many "surprise" bills from out-of-network providers working at in-network facilities, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from the District of Columbia, Georgia, and Virginia.

    • District of Columbia: On Jan. 1, a new federal law banned many so-called "surprise" medical bills that arise when patients receive care from out-of-network providers working at in-network facilities. Although patients will still be required to pay in-network copays, deductibles, and other cost-sharing, they will no longer be responsible for any additional out-of-network bills for emergency care in a hospital or freestanding ED or urgent care center, air ambulances, or elective care at an in-network facility. However, since ground ambulances are not included in the law, individuals could still receive surprise bills for an ambulance ride, Axios reports. The law requires providers and insurance companies to resolve billing differences. If they cannot agree on a payment rate within 30 days, they can undergo the federal arbitration process and submit their best rate to an arbiter, who will select one of the offers. (Herman, Axios, 1/1)
    • Georgia: CDC on Thursday urged individuals to "avoid cruise ships, regardless of vaccination status," due to an increased threat of Covid-19. The agency raised its travel health notice to the highest level, noting that the risk of infection on a cruise ship is "very high" and that "Covid-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships." CDC said that all individuals traveling on a cruise ship should be fully vaccinated and get tested one to three days before boarding a cruise ship and again three to five days after they return. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) criticized the move, saying, "While we are disappointed and disagree with the decision to single out the cruise industry ... CLIA and our ocean-going cruise line members remain committed to working collaboratively with the CDC in the interest of public health and safety." (Doherty, Axios, 12/30/21)
    • Virginia: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday announced that he had tested positive for Covid-19 and was experiencing mild symptoms. Austin is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and has received a booster dose. According to his announcement, he plans to attend his meetings virtually while he quarantines at home this week. "As my doctor made clear to me, my fully vaccinated status—and the booster I received in early October—have rendered the infection much more mild than it would otherwise have been. And I am grateful for that," Austin said. (O'Brien, Politico, 1/2)

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