Americans can expect fewer surprise medical bills come January

Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 2:25 AM CST
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(CNN) - Americans will have one less healthcare headache in 2022, thanks to the No Surprises Act.

The new law bans most unexpected medical charges from out-of-network providers. It’s scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1.

The No Surprises Act protects patients when they receive treatment from doctors and hospitals that are not in their insurance networks and that they did not choose. Consumers will be responsible only for their in-network cost-sharing in these situations.

The rule applies to nearly all private health plans offered by employers and also to individual policies bought through the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

Federal estimates predict it will apply to about 10 million surprise bills a year.

Congress approved the law in late 2020 after a multitude of delays. It enjoyed wide bipartisan support among lawmakers, insurers and providers but sparked criticism and lawsuits from the healthcare industry over who pays the rest of the bill.

In the end, the law set up a system where insurers and providers negotiate over the amount to be paid.

Surprise medical bills can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Two in three adults say they worry about these expenses.

About 1 in 5 emergency room visits and 1 in 6 in-network hospitalizations include at least one out-of-network bill, Kaiser says.

Copyright 2021 CNN Newsource. All rights reserved. Gray News contributed to this report.