Aug 13, 2019 - Health

Surprise bills are everywhere

Data: Sun, Mello, Moshfegh and Baker, 2019; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Surprise medical bills have gotten more common and more expensive, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Why it matters: These bills can be devastating to patients, even those who have some savings and a steady source of income.

The big picture: The study used an Optum database to look at patients covered by a large commercial insurer who received either inpatient or emergency care at hospitals covered by their insurance, and got a bill for out-of-network care.

  • These bills were probably unexpected. Patients often assume that the care they receive at an in-network hospital will all be covered by their insurer.

Yes, but: Most hospitals don't produce out-of-network bills this often. The results are skewed by serial offenders.

What we're watching: Congress has vowed to prohibit surprise medical bills, but its leading approach is under attack from hospital and doctors' groups.

California's law, which mirrored the approach pending in Congress, shifted contract negotiations in insurers' favor, according to a study in the American Journal of Managed Care.

  • This has led to even more provider consolidation, the study found.

Go deeper: We all pay for surprise emergency room bills

Go deeper

ER doctors' pay raises outpace other specialists

Data: Urban Institute; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Emergency doctors — which are at the center of the surprise billing debate — saw their compensation go up more than any other physician specialty between 2013 and 2017.

Why it matters: This translates into higher health care costs, which we all pay for through our taxes, premiums and out-of-pocket spending.

Go deeperArrowJan 15, 2020

One Medical's IPO reveals growing reliance on hospitals

One Medical's clinics are an option for almost 400,000 people. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

One Medical has filed paperwork to go public, and the growing chain of physician offices has made it clear to prospective investors that large, dominant hospital systems are becoming a lot more crucial to its business.

The bottom line: "Our growth depends on maintaining existing, and developing new, strategic affiliations with health network partners," One Medical executives wrote in their IPO filing.

Go deeperArrowJan 7, 2020

Military hospitals are aggressively going after medical debt

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Add the U.S. government to the list of groups going after patients for thousands of dollars in medical debt, per reporting by The Center for Public Integrity and The Atlantic.

How it works: Civilians can receive care at military hospitals in an emergency or if the military hospital offers superior care.

Go deeperArrowJan 22, 2020