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Out-of-Network Bill Threatens Safety Net of Emergency Care in Nevada

WASHINGTON, DC..—The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) today joined Nevada ACEP to oppose a proposed bill before the Nevada Assembly (AB 382) that would require physicians who practice in emergency departments to accept certain payments decided by insurance companies as “payments in full,” giving the upper hand to the health insurance industry and resulting in a mass exodus of emergency and on-call providers in the state, which already has physician shortages.

“Patients are caught in the middle of a conflict that only a few people understand,” said Bret Frey, MD, FACEP, Legislative Liaison for the Nevada Chapter of ACEP. “Too often, people receive bills and they don’t understand what their insurance won’t cover due to high deductibles, and what portions of the bills are because of out-of-network services.”

Dr. Frey added that there is a transparency problem in the health insurance industry that has led to gross misperceptions regarding out-of-network billing. If a patient purchases an insurance plan with a narrow network, they generally will end up out-of-network in an emergency, through no fault of their own, because they have a condition that by its nature demands a very specialized level of care, such as a stroke, heart attack, and trauma.

Emergency physicians in Nevada have supported solutions to the “surprise billing” problem by endorsing Nevada Senate Bill 289 that would require certain policies of health insurance to cover services provided by out-of-network physicians.

“SB 289 brings us closer to a balanced and transparent solution that is more patient-centered than ever before, said Dr. Frey. “It will unburden our patients from uncertainty, and provides transparent protections that keep patients from being placed between a rock and a hard place.”

Emergency physicians are calling for transparency by insurance companies and use of independent databases, such as Fair Health. Payments for emergency visits should be based on usual and customary charges, rather than arbitrary rates set by the insurance industry that don’t even cover the costs of care and stick patients with unfair bills. The insurance companies are exploiting federal law (EMTALA) that mandates that hospital emergency departments see all patients, regardless of their ability to pay.

“What’s potentially happening in Nevada threatens patients in other states as well,” said Rebecca Parker, MD, FACEP, president of ACEP. “Health insurance companies have a long history of denying care for emergency patients. They are misleading patients by selling so-called ‘affordable’ policies that cover very little, then blaming medical providers for charges’ State and federal policymakers need to ensure that health insurance plans provide adequate rosters of physicians and fair payment for emergency services.”

Dr. Parker said that health insurance companies used to deny emergency claims based on final diagnoses, instead of symptoms. In other words, if chest pain brought a patient to the emergency department, and the patient turned out to have indigestion, the insurance company refused to cover the visit. Emergency physicians successfully fought back against these policies. Now, insurance companies are exploiting a federal law (EMTALA) mandating that hospital emergency departments see all patients, regardless of their ability to pay, and insurance companies are shifting more and more costs onto patients and medical providers.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is the national medical society representing emergency medicine. Through continuing education, research, public education, and advocacy, ACEP advances emergency care on behalf of its 40,000 emergency physician members, and the more than 150 million people they treat on an annual basis. For more information, visit www.acep.org and www.emergencyphysicians.org.

Contact: Steve Arnoff | sarnoff@acep.org | Twitter @EmergencyDocs

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