A potentially lifesaving trip to the emergency room
could result in exorbitant and unexpected bills -
even if you have insurance.
Consumer Reports explains why you can be socked with
surprise ER bills, and how to protect yourself.
News 8's Martha Koloski has more.
John Elfrank-Dana had to have two emergency brain
surgeries after he hit his head and suffered a brain
He thought his medical insurance would cover the costs.
Instead, he was hit with more than
90-thousand dollars worth of bills.
I was shell-shocked.
What John didn't know is that about two-thirds of
emergency room doctors are independent contractors.
They may not be covered by your plan.
Doctors can bill you for what your insurance doesn't
Money Editor, Consumer Reports
Do your research before an emergency happens.
Contact your area hospitals and ask if they take your
Then ask your hospital of choice whether the ER doctors
there will take your insurance, too.
Ambulances, lab services, and special equipment can
also fall into the out-of-network category - potentially
costing patients thousands of dollars.
Consumer Reports says if you get out-of-network bills,
don't pay anything until you get an E-O-B
- an explanation of benefits -
from your insurer.
Compare that with the bills.
And confirm with your insurer that the providers are
not in your plan.
Then ask your provider if they'll settle for what
the insurance company has already paid.
You'll be surprised; some doctors will negotiate with
You can also appeal to the agency in your state that
regulates insurance carriers - like John did.
It has taken him a year, but John has finally seen
a reduction in his bills.
You have to do your research.
You have to really be a smart consumer.
Several states have laws on the books to prevent people
from being charged out-of-network fees for hospital
doctors in emergency or other situations.
So Consumer Reports says don't pay a surprisingly-high
ER bill without checking first with your provider
and insurance company.