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The beginning of the end for surprise billing as new ban officially kicks in under H.R. 133

Submitted by Patrick Cassidy, Communications Director.

WASHINGTON, DC – Last week, Rep. Joe Courtney (CT-02), a senior member of the House Education and Labor Committee, shared that new federal law banning many types of out-of-network medical bills, known as “surprise billing”, officially went into effect on Monday, January 3rd, 2022. The new ban outlaws certain specific forms of surprise medical billing—including air ambulances, emergency care in hospital Emergency Rooms or urgent care centers, and “drive-by doctoring—and comes as a result of legislation written and authorized by Rep. Courtney and the House Education and Labor Committee in 2020. Click here to learn more about the new ban on surprise medical billing.

In February 2020, Rep. Courtney and the Education and Labor Committee voted to authorize the bipartisan Ban Surprise Billing Act (H.R. 5800). It was the first bill in the previous 116th Congress that sought to protect patients from the surprise medical bills included in today’s ban, and it was authorized by Courtney and the Committee with strong bipartisan support. Later in the year, Courtney and his colleagues incorporated the Ban Surprise Billing Act into the Education and Labor Committee’s portion of H.R. 133, the end-of-year bipartisan omnibus spending agreement of 2020. Now, starting January 3rd, the ban on surprise billing that Courtney and his colleagues helped secure in 2020 has officially gone into effect.

Thousands of families know what it’s like to have to say ‘yes’ to emergency medical services, only to then be stuck with sky-high bills from unknown, out-of-network providers. Surprise billing is a problem for way too many Americans, especially for seniors, and we started off 2022 by taking a big step towards ending many of them,” said Rep. Courtney. “It took a few months to take effect, but last week it became official: out-of-network bills on things like air ambulances, emergency care in hospital ERs, and third-party providers at in-network hospitals are officially on their way out, thanks to H.R. 133. There’s still more work to do to lower the cost of health care all around, and to end other forms of surprise billing, but this was really a great way to start the year for lots of seniors and families.” 

Under H.R. 133, patients still have to pay in-network copays, deductibles, and other cost-sharing, but starting January 3rd, 2022, any additional out-of-network bills are prohibited for the following services: 

  • Emergency care in a hospital emergency room, a freestanding emergency room, or at an emergency room in an urgent care center.
  • “Drive-by Doctoring”—elective care at an in-network hospital or surgery center, but where some doctors operate surreptitiously out-of-network.
  • Air ambulances.

Courtney has worked across the aisle for years to help end surprise medical billing for American families and seniors. Earlier in the 117th Congress, in June 2021, Courtney was joined by Reps. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA-15), Susan DelBene (D-WA-01), and Ron Estes (R-KS-04) to introduce the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act (H.R. 3650), a bipartisan bill that would help seniors save thousands of dollars in surprise medical bills by fixing an arbitrary Medicare policy. Click here to learn more.


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