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Stopping Surprise Medical Bills

Thanks to the federal No Surprises Act, over 6 million Californians are now protected from receiving certain surprise medical bills, which can wreak havoc on the finances of patients and their families. Surprise bills occur when patients unwittingly get an out-of-network bill, either following emergency care or from an out of network doctor at an in-network hospital or facility. While California already had some of the strongest protections in the nation against surprise billing, the federal law fills in key gaps, most notably for those with coverage regulated at the federal level.

Key lessons learned from California’s fight for the landmark AB 72 (2017) helped lead to federal action on surprise bills.

More broadly, Health Access supports efforts to strengthen consumer protections in the insurance market to prevent underinsurance and medical debt, going above and beyond the ACA as needed. For example, Health Access led efforts to pass California’s first-in-the-nation Hospital Fair Pricing Act, a 2006 law (authored by Assemblywoman Wilma Chan), which limits the common practice of charging uninsured and underinsured patients more for care than everybody else pays.

One gap in state and federal patient protections to prevent surprise medical bills is ground ambulances. Health Access is working to ensure Californians are not afraid to call 911 for fear of the bill, and don’t get a surprise bill after needing an ambulance.