White House Bans Hospitals From Sending Surprise Medical Bills for COVID-19 Treatment

As a requirement for receiving funds under the $2 trillion stimulus bill, hospitals cannot send surprise medical bills to patients treated for COVID-19, the Trump administration has announced.

In addition, hospitals that accept grants are required to confirm they are not charging more for out-of-network services than what the patient would pay if they were treated in-network. The decision applies to health-care providers as well as hospitals, an ERISA Industry Committee spokesperson told the Associated Press. ERISA (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) refers to the federal law that sets terms and conditions for multistate employer plans.

Prior to the pandemic, Congress attempted to tackle the issue of surprise billing, which occurs when a patient with insurance is treated at an out-of-network emergency room, or when an out-of-network doctor assists with treatment at an in-network hospital. No legislation prohibiting this practice beyond COVID-19 treatment has been passed.

Patients covered by government programs, employer plans, or self-purchased insurance will all be protected from surprise billing. The White House has not specified how COVID-19 treatment costs will be covered for patients without insurance, or for those who lost their coverage during the economic shutdown.

Source: AP News, April 10, 2020.