‘No Surprises Act,’ which ends unexpected medical expenses, won’t cover ambulance fees

According to the Washington Examiner, the controversial, often sky-high bills associated with ambulance rides will continue, despite the recent implementation of the final rules included in the No Surprises Act (NSA), which was announced by President Joe Biden’s administration last week. 

The original goal of the bill, which was signed into law in December as part of a larger legislative package, was to eliminate surprise bills associated with emergency medical expenses.

“No patient should forgo care for fear of surprise billing,” Health and Human Service Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement last week.

“Health insurance should offer patients peace of mind that they won’t be saddled with unexpected costs. The Biden-Harris Administration remains committed to ensuring transparency and affordable care, and with this rule, Americans will get the assurance of no surprises,” the HHS secretary added.

No ambulances?

Unfortunately, for millions of Americans who find themselves in sudden need of ambulance transport for medical emergencies, surprise ambulance expenses didn’t make the cut.

“It is a shame that Congress didn’t tackle one of the biggest types of surprise bills that patients have absolutely no control over. … Congress dropped the ball,” said Patricia Kelmar, director of healthcare campaigns at the Public Interest Research Group, according to the Examiner.

“You don’t really want to be thinking about cost when you need an ambulance for a heart attack,” said Loren Adler, associate director of the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy at the Brookings Institution.

What does the bill cover?

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) noted last week several key areas covered in the bill.

The bill “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.” CMS added that the bill also “bans high out-of-network cost-sharing for emergency and non-emergency services.”

The No Surprise Act also nixes “out-of-network charges for ancillary care (like an anesthesiologist or assistant surgeon) at an in-network facility in all circumstances,” as well as the elimination of “other out-of-network charges without advance notice.”

The new legislation should help Americans with some of the overwhelming costs associated with most medical emergency situations. However, the lack of coverage for ambulance services, which many times ends up being the most expensive bill incurred, seems to be a huge misstep, to say the least.

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