Almost one in five families who gave birth in 2019 may have received at least one surprise bill for the birth and / or hospitalization of newborns, with an average bill of $ 744, a new study estimates.
In addition, a third of families faced with surprise bills may have been hooked for more than $ 2,000, according to the study, which was published as a research letter on the JAMA Health Forum, an expert-reviewed health policy journal.
The study, which aims to highlight the potential benefits of a surprise medical bills ban coming into effect next year, was conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan and Boston University.
These unexpected medical bills were rated as “more frequent and higher” in cases involving caesarean sections or neonatal intensive care, the authors wrote.
Childbirth hospitalization seems to be one of the most common sources of surprise bills in the country.
Childbirth and newborn hospitalizations are the leading drivers of hospitalization in the United States, according to the study, and childbirth hospitalization appears to be one of the most common sources of surprise bills in the country.
The authors estimated the extent and frequency of potential surprise bills for more than 95,000 privately insured families with on-line deliveries in 2019.
While the study did not consider whether the families were affected by these surprise bills or what amounts they actually paid, "the results suggest that federal protection against surprise bills could benefit many families, especially when resource-intensive hospital stays occur," the wrote Researcher.
Surprising bills can often arise when patients receive emergency care from providers outside the network. New consumer protection measures against surprise medical bills will come into effect on January 1, 2022, and President Biden's administration last week announced its first measures – in the form of a so-called preliminary final rule – to implement the requirements under the No Surprises Act, " which the Congress passed in December.
"It is important that these protective measures do not reduce the considerable costs of childbirth, which are incurred even without surprising bills."
Former President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan bill, which is part of an omnibus spending bill, that same month.
The rule of the Biden administration, which is subject to a comment period, will prohibit, among other things, the surprising billing of emergency services and the high cost sharing outside the network for both emergency and non-emergency services.
About two in three Americans surveyed by the health care think tank KFF in February 2020 said they were either “very” or “somewhat” concerned about being able to afford unexpected medical bills for themselves or their families.
Of course, "improvements in the design of childbirth benefits are needed to protect families from undue financial burdens," added the authors of the JAMA Health Forum article.
They pointed to a study that showed that out-of-pocket maternity care costs averaged $ 4,500 for privately insured women between the year before and three months after delivery.
"It is important that these protective measures do not reduce the considerable birth costs, which are incurred even without surprising bills," the authors write.