CMS administrator: Providers, insurers deflect financial responsibility for care

The acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has suggested to The Huffington Post that hospitals and insurers often deflect financial responsibility for care to patients by not taking any responsibility at all.

"Everybody in the chain is culpable, but they also--in this wonderful system we have--have the ability to point to each other and say, 'See? It's not my fault because it's the way the system works,'" Andy Slavitt told the publication.

Slavitt's remarks came in an article about surprise medical bills. It cited as one example Californian Lisa Bettendorf, who despite having insurance and visiting an in-network hospital after she suffered a fall, still wound up on the hook for nearly $9,700 in medical bills. That included a $4,400 charge from a plastic surgeon who was not in Bettendorf's provider network.

Surprise medical bills have been growing in recent years, fueled in part by the fact that contractual arrangements among providers and insurers are changing constantly and patients are often unaware of such changes.

New Jersey and Connecticut have introduced legislation to address the issue of surprise medical bills, although they have hit some stiff opposition from the medical community. New York became the first state in the nation to bar the practice with the passage of a law last year. In New York State, some patients received surprise bills for care that ran well into the six figures.

Bettendorf herself appeared unaware of the fact that a 2009 state Supreme Court case barred balance billing of insured patients in California for most emergency services.

To learn more:
- read the Huffington Post article