How you can avoid and deal with surprise medical bills
In an emergency scenario, there's not a ton to do, beyond trying to get to a hospital you know is in your network. For the record, if you have an emergency, no hospital can refuse treatment, per the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act -- so get to the closest damn hospital you can find for the fastest care you need.
On the legal end, New York, California, and other states protect patients from some surprise nightmare scenarios like these, and some insurance providers will cover your bills after the fact, but ultimately the buck stops with you, the patient. To mitigate surprises, follow this quick checklist:
- Call ahead before a doctor's appointment to make sure you're in-network.
- Ask your primary care physician if any specialists or health care providers are in-network.
- Plan meticulously when it comes to major care or surgery, which could involve a number of specialists, anesthesia, physical therapy, and other factors.
- Get itemized bills, and be sure to check for any procedure or treatment you did not actually receive.
- Don't shy away from negotiation -- both before and after treatment.
"You, as the patient, have absolutely done the right thing," Cooper explained to NBC News. "You've gone to an in-network hospital, and a doctor who you didn't choose, who you couldn't avoid, ends up not being a member of your network and weeks later sends you a bill for tens of thousands of dollars that you're on the hook to pay."