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Surprise medical bills are a common problem

Many patients who visit emergency rooms in South Carolina are surprised by the medical bills that they receive later on. Because health plan designs have changed, there is a lot of confusion that can lead to unexpected medical bills. Even if patients make sure to use a hospital or clinic that is within their health plan's network, they could get a bill for treatment from an out-of-network healthcare provider.

In an emergency situation, patients are unlikely to ask the doctor or anesthesiologist who is treating them whether or not they are in their health plan network. Patients are usually unaware that out-of-network providers work at in-network facilities. Right now, there are no laws to protect patients from these kinds of medical bill surprises and no limits on the amount that can be charged by out-of-network providers.

Patients can prevent surprise medical bills by only seeking treatment from in-network health care facilities and providers. It is important to be aware of how healthcare plans work, as some are designed to cover out-of-network health care providers in emergency situations. If surprise medical bills arrive despite precautions, a patient should investigate the charge before paying it. Many surprise medical bills are sent in error and can be disputed.

If a health care plan doesn't cover out-of-network providers, even in emergencies, medical bills can start to add up quickly. A lawyer may be able to help a patient who is overwhelmed by medical debt to sort through their bills and dispute erroneous charges. In some cases, a lawyer may advise a person with a lot of medical debt to file for bankruptcy.

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