Basically, even if you have the foresight to seek treatment at a hospital that accepts your insurance, the docs you see there may operate in their own networks, meaning you've just inadvertently received treatment from providers not covered by your plan. Weeks later, you're feeling great, when the other shoe drops in the form of a massive bill.
One-fifth of patients seems crazy high, but the problem is complicated
"No one knows this is happening this frequently," Zack Cooper, a health economist at Yale University who led the work, told The Washington Post. Per the research conduceted by him and co-auther Fiona Scott Morton, surprise bills could tally up to $623 per visit, on average, and potentially $19,000 for one patient they looked at. Talk about a huge bummer of a letter to open: "You owe $19,000!"
Rebecca Parker, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, disagreed, calling the numbers "ludicrous" and the peer-reviewed study "totally out of the realm of what's true." Per the Post: "Parker said her organization has been examining the surprise billing issue for more than a year and often found that patients who receive surprise bills are dealing with the unwelcome discovery that their insurance plans simply cover very little."