When you get emergency care or get treated by an out-of-network provider at an in-network hospital or ambulatory surgical center, you are protected from surprise billing or balance billing.
When you see a doctor or other healthcare provider, you may owe certain out-of-pocket costs, such as a copayment, coinsurance, and/or a deductible. You may have other costs or have to pay the entire bill if you see a provider or visit a healthcare facility that isn't in your health plan's network.
"Out-of-network" describes providers and facilities that haven't signed a contract with your health plan. Out-of-network providers may be permitted to bill you for the difference between what your plan agreed to pay, and the full amount charged for a service. This is called "balance billing." This amount is likely more than in-network costs for the same service and might not count toward your annual out-of-pocket limit.
"Surprise billing " is an unexpected balance bill. This can happen when you can't control who is involved in your care, like when you have an emergency or when you schedule a visit at an in-network facility but are unexpectedly treated by an out-of-network provider.
Insurers are required to tell you, via their websites or on request, which providers, hospitals, and facilities are in their networks. Hospitals, surgical facilities, and providers must tell you which provider networks they participate in on their website or on request.
If you have an emergency medical, mental health, or substance use disorder condition and get emergency services from an out-of-network provider or facility, the most the provider or facility may bill you is your plan's in-network cost-sharing amount (such as copayments and coinsurance). You can't be balance billed for these emergency services. This includes care you receive in a hospital and in facilities that provide crisis services to people experiencing a mental health or substance use disorder emergency. You can't be balance billed for these emergency services, including services you may get after you're in stable condition.
When you get services from an in-network hospital or ambulatory surgical center, certain providers there may be out-of-network. In these cases, the most these providers may bill you is your plan's in-network cost-sharing amount.
Healthcare providers, including hospitals and air ambulance providers, can never require you to give up your protections from balance billing.
If you have coverage through a self-funded group health plan, in some limited situations, a provider can ask you to consent to waive your balance billing protections, but you are never required to give your consent. Please contact your employer or health plan for more information.
You are only responsible for paying your share of the cost (like the copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles that you would pay if the provider or facility was in-network). Your health plan will pay out-of-network providers and facilities directly.
Your health plan generally must:
If you believe you've been wrongly billed, you may file a complaint with the federal government at www.cms.gov/nosurprises/consumers or by calling 1-800-985-3059; and/or file a complaint with the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner at their website or by calling 1-800-562-6900.
Visit www.cms.gov/nosurprises for more information about your rights under federal law.
Visit the Office of the Insurance Commissioner Balance Billing Protection Act website for more information about your rights under Washington state law.