Federal officials offering emergency funding to hospitals, clinics and doctors’ practices have included this stipulation: They cannot foist surprise medical bills on COVID-19 patients.
But buried in the Department of Health and Human Services’ terms and conditions for eligibility is language that could carry much broader implications. It says “HHS broadly views every patient as a possible case of COVID-19,” the guidance states.
Some say that line could disrupt a longtime health care industry practice of balance billing, in which a patient is billed for the difference between what a provider charges and what the insurer pays, a major source of surprise bills ― which can be financially devastating ― for patients. It is banned in several states, though not federally.
For those immersed in the ongoing fight over surprise medical billing, the possibility that HHS might have done with fine print what Congress and the White House could