HHS Announces Rule to Protect Consumers from Surprise Medical Bills

Today, the Biden-Harris Administration, through the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor, and Treasury, and the Office of Personnel Management, issued “Requirements Related to Surprise Billing; Part I,” an interim final rule that will restrict excessive out of pocket costs to consumers from surprise billing and balance billing. Surprise billing happens when people unknowingly get care from providers that are outside of their health plan’s network and can happen for both emergency and non-emergency care. Balance billing, when a provider charges a patient the remainder of what their insurance does not pay, is currently prohibited in both Medicare and Medicaid. This rule will extend similar protections to Americans insured through employer-sponsored and commercial health plans.

Among other provisions, today’s interim final rule:

  • Bans surprise billing for emergency services. Emergency services, regardless of where they are provided, must be treated on an in-network basis without requirements for prior authorization.
  • Bans high out-of-network cost-sharing for emergency and non-emergency services. Patient cost-sharing, such as co-insurance or a deductible, cannot be higher than if such services were provided by an in-network doctor, and any coinsurance or deductible must be based on in-network provider rates.
  • Bans out-of-network charges for ancillary care (like an anesthesiologist or assistant surgeon) at an in-network facility in all circumstances.
  • Bans other out-of-network charges without advance notice. Health care providers and facilities must provide patients with a plain-language consumer notice explaining that patient consent is required to receive care on an out-of-network basis before that provider can bill at the higher out-of-network rate.

Today’s interim final rule with request for comments implements the first of several requirements passed with bipartisan support in title I (the “No Surprises Act”) of division BB of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. The regulations issued today will take effect for health care providers and facilities January 1, 2022. For group health plans, health insurance issuers, and FEHB Program carriers, the provisions will take effect for plan, policy, or contract years beginning on or after January 1, 2022.

Click here for CMS’ Fact Sheet on the Surprise Billing Interim Final Rule.

Click here to read the complete Surprise Billing Interim Final Rule.

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