Surprise bills occur when patients unwittingly get an out-of-network bill following emergency care, from an out of network doctor at an in-network hospital or facility, or from an ambulance ride. The unexpected bill can wreak havoc on the finances of patients and their families at an already difficult time.
California has led the nation in efforts to ban the practice of surprise billing for medical bills and ground ambulances. In 2017, Health Access sponsored the passage of AB 72, which at the time was the strongest law in the nation against medical balance billing covering nearly half of Californians with private insurance. Key lessons learned from California’s fight for the landmark AB 72 (2017) helped lead to federal action on surprise bills.
In 2022, the federal No Surprises Act took effect to help protect the remaining 6 million Californians in federally regulated health plans from surprise medical bills. While the federal law protected all patients from medical bills, a key gap remained for ground ambulances.
In 2023, Health Access sponsored AB 716 (Boerner), a new law that will take effect January 1, 2024, to prevent surprise bills for ground ambulance rides for Californians in state-regulated private health plans. Californians should no longer be afraid to call 911 for fear of the bill, and uninsured patients will be protected from inflated ambulance costs. Other protections in the new law will allow Californians more time to address their ambulance bill before being sent to collections. Health Access will continue to push for federal laws addressing ground ambulance surprise billing to ensure protections for the millions of Californians in health plans regulated by federal laws.
If you need assistance to address a current surprise ambulance bill issue, please contact Health Consumer Alliance via their Website or Consumer Hotline: 888-804-3536. If you receive a bill over your in-network cost-sharing after January 1, 2024, contact the Department of Managed Health Care via their Website or Help Center: 888-466-2219