WASHINGTON, D.C., December 13, 2020 — American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following statement in response to the bicameral, bipartisan agreement on surprise medical bills announced Friday by congressional leaders:
“This agreement represents a major breakthrough toward the goal of ending the predatory practice of surprise medical billing, which can leave patients hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in debt after receiving medical care.
“Patients nationwide have been waiting for years for legal protection from financially devastating surprise bills, and now relief is in sight. The bipartisan agreement shields patients from bills for medical services, including air ambulances, and removes patients from payment disputes between providers and insurers.
“The agreement also prohibits certain providers from issuing bills for out-of-network services unless they give patients an estimate of charges 72 hours prior to delivering care and patients provide advance consent to receive that care. This provision will require strict enforcement to ensure it provides patients adequate protection.
“Congress has had nearly 600 days to act on bipartisan legislation to stop surprise medical bills. Lawmakers should swiftly approve this agreement so patients with heart disease, a history of stroke and other serious chronic conditions are protected when seeking needed medical care. We will work with Congress to monitor its implementation and further strengthen protections for patients.”
Surprise bills are a major driver of financial anxiety and disruption for families nationwide that are already straining under the weight of an ongoing pandemic. Nearly half (49%) of U.S. adults say worrying about an unexpected medical bill keeps them from seeking care, and a similar proportion (44%) say if they received an unexpected medical bill for $1,000 they would not have the money to pay for it, according to a public opinion survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Heart Association.
The survey found that two-thirds (68%) of U.S. adults with private health insurance have received an unexpected medical bill, and of those, one in three (33%) were not able to pay the bill with money immediately available to them. Among those with private insurance who did not have money available, nearly one in four (23%) say they have yet to pay the bill.
The American Heart Association, the world’s leading voluntary organization focused on heart and brain health, has waged a grassroots advocacy campaign urging patients nationwide to share their experiences with surprise bills, using the hashtag #IWasBilled. The Association also is mobilizing advocates through its nationwide You’re the Cure grassroots network to call and email their members of Congress about the urgent need to stop surprise medical bills.
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.
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