Effective January 1, 2022, the No Surprises Act, which Congress passed as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, is designed to protect patients from surprise bills for emergency services at out-of-network facilities or for out-of-network providers at in-network facilities, holding them liable only for in-network cost-sharing amounts. The No Surprises Act also enables uninsured patients to receive a good faith estimate of the cost of care.
Billing Disclosures – Your Rights and Protections Against Surprise Medical Bills
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.
What is “balance billing” (sometimes called “surprise billing”)?
When you see a doctor or other health care 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 health care 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.
You are protected from balance billing for:
If you have an emergency medical 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 services you may get after you’re in stable condition, unless you give written consent and give up your protections not to be balanced billed for these post-stabilization services.
Additionally, The Virginia state surprise billing law is described in the required Model Notice on their Virginia law: Balance-Billing-Consumer-Rights.pdf (virginia.gov).
Certain services at an in-network hospital or ambulatory surgical center
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 those providers may bill you is your plan’s in-network cost-sharing amount. This applies to emergency medicine, anesthesia, pathology, radiology, laboratory, neonatology, assistant surgeon, hospitalist, or intensivist services. These providers can’t balance bill you and may not ask you to give up your protections not to be balance billed.
If you get other services at these in-network facilities, out-of-network providers can’t balance bill you, unless you give written consent and give up your protections.
You’re never required to give up your protections from balance billing. You also aren’t required to get care out-of-network. You can choose a provider or facility in your plan’s network.
When balance billing isn’t allowed, you also have the following protections:
- 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:
- Cover emergency services without requiring you to get approval for services in advance (prior authorization).
- Cover emergency services by out-of-network providers.
- Base what you owe the provider or facility (cost-sharing) on what it would pay an in-network provider or facility and show that amount in your explanation of benefits.
- Count any amount you pay for emergency services or out-of-network services toward your deductible and out-of-pocket limit.
If you believe you’ve been wrongly billed, you may contact:
- The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or visit https://www.cms.gov/nosurprises for more information about your rights under federal law.
- Your health plan to ask them why you got the bill and if it’s correct. If it was an emergency, ask your health plan if they processed your claim as an emergency.
- The State Corporation Commissioner’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance at 877-310-6560 or visit scc.virginia.gov
Good Faith Estimate
You have the right to receive a “Good Faith Estimate” explaining how much your medical care will cost.
Under the law, healthcare providers need to give patients who don’t have insurance or who are not using insurance an estimate of the bill for medical items and services.
- You have the right to receive a Good Faith Estimate for the total expected cost of any non-emergency items or services. This includes related costs like medical tests, prescription drugs, equipment and hospital fees.
- Make sure your healthcare provider gives you a Good Faith Estimate in writing at least one business day before your medical service or item. You can also ask your healthcare provider, and any other provider you choose, for a Good Faith Estimate before you schedule an item or service.
- If you receive a bill that is at least $400 more than your Good Faith Estimate, you can dispute the bill.
- Make sure to save a copy or picture of your Good Faith Estimate.
Get More Information
For questions or more information about your right to a Good Faith Estimate, visit cms.gov/nosurprises or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
Notice of Privacy Practices
Client Rights & Therapist Duties
This document contains important information about federal law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), that provides privacy protections and patient rights with regard to the use and disclosure of your Protected Health Information (PHI) used for the purpose of treatment, payment, and health care operations.
HIPAA requires that I provide you with a Notice of Privacy Practices (the Notice) for use and disclosure of PHI for treatment, payment and health care operations. The Notice explains HIPAA and its application to your PHI in greater detail.
The law requires that I obtain your signature acknowledging that I have provided you with this. If you have any questions, it is your right and obligation to ask so I can have a further discussion prior to signing this document. When you sign this document, it will also represent an agreement between us. You may revoke this Agreement in writing at any time. That revocation will be binding unless I have taken action in reliance on it.
LIMITS ON CONFIDENTIALITY
The law protects the privacy of all communication between a patient and a therapist. In most situations, I can only release information about your treatment to others if you sign a written authorization form that meets certain legal requirements imposed by HIPAA. There are some situations where I am permitted or required to disclose information without either your consent or authorization. If such a situation arises, I will limit my disclosure to what is necessary. Reasons I may have to release your information without authorization:
● If you are involved in a court proceeding and a request is made for information concerning your diagnosis and treatment, such information is protected by the psychologist-patient privilege law. I cannot provide any information without your (or your legal representative’s) written authorization, or a court order, or if I receive a subpoena of which you have been properly notified and you have failed to inform me that you oppose the subpoena. If you are involved in or contemplating litigation, you should consult with an attorney to determine whether a court would be likely to order me to disclose information.
● If a government agency is requesting the information for health oversight activities, within its appropriate legal authority, I may be required to provide it for them.
● If a patient files a complaint or lawsuit against me, I may disclose relevant information regarding that patient in order to defend myself.
● If a patient files a worker’s compensation claim, and I am providing necessary treatment related to that claim, I must, upon appropriate request, submit treatment reports to the appropriate parties, including the patient’s employer, the insurance carrier or an authorized qualified rehabilitation provider.
● I may disclose the minimum necessary health information to my business associates that perform functions on our behalf or provide us with services if the information is necessary for such functions or services. My business associates sign agreements to protect the privacy of your information and are not allowed to use or disclose any information other than as specified in our contract.
There are some situations in which I am legally obligated to take actions, which I believe are necessary to attempt to protect others from harm, and I may have to reveal some information about a patient’s treatment:
● If I know, or have reason to suspect, that a child under 18 has been abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or any other person responsible for the child’s welfare, the law requires that I file a report with the Virginia Abuse Hotline. Once such a report is filed, I may be required to provide additional information.
● If I know or have reasonable cause to suspect that a vulnerable adult has been abused, neglected, or exploited, the law requires that I file a report with the Virginia Abuse Hotline. Once such a report is filed, I may be required to provide additional information.
● If I believe that there is a clear and immediate probability of physical harm to the patient, to other individuals, or to society, I may be required to disclose information to take protective action, including communicating the information to the potential victim, and/or appropriate family member, and/or the police or to seek hospitalization of the patient.
CLIENT RIGHTS AND THERAPIST DUTIES
Use and Disclosure of Protected Health Information:
● For Treatment – I use and disclose your health information internally in the course of your treatment. If I wish to provide information outside of our practice for your treatment by another health care provider, I will have you sign an authorization for release of information. Furthermore, an authorization is required for most uses and disclosures of psychotherapy notes.
● For Payment – I may use and disclose your health information to obtain payment for services provided to you as delineated in the Therapy Agreement.
● For Operations – I may use and disclose your health information as part of our internal operations. For example, this could mean a review of records to assure quality. I may also use your information to tell you about services, educational activities, and programs that I feel might be of interest to you.
● Right to Treatment – You have the right to ethical treatment without discrimination regarding race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, disability status, age, or any other protected category.
● Right to Confidentiality – You have the right to have your health care information protected. If you pay for a service or health care item out-of-pocket in full, you can ask us not to share that information for the purpose of payment or our operations with your health insurer. I will agree to such unless a law requires us to share that information.
● Right to Request Restrictions – You have the right to request restrictions on certain uses and disclosures of protected health information about you. However, I am not required to agree to a restriction you request.
● Right to Receive Confidential Communications by Alternative Means and at Alternative Locations – You have the right to request and receive confidential communications of PHI by alternative means and at alternative locations.
● Right to Inspect and Copy – You have the right to inspect or obtain a copy (or both) of PHI. Records must be requested in writing and release of information must be completed. Furthermore, there is a copying fee charge of $1.00 per page. Please make your request well in advance and allow 2 weeks to receive the copies. If I refuse your request for access to your records, you have a right of review, which I will discuss with you upon request.
● Right to Amend – If you believe the information in your records is incorrect and/or missing important information, you can ask us to make certain changes, also known as amending, to your health information. You have to make this request in writing. You must tell us the reasons you want to make these changes, and I will decide if it is and if I refuse to do so, I will tell you why within 60 days.
● Right to a Copy of This Notice – If you received the paperwork electronically, you have a copy in your email. If you completed this paperwork in the office at your first session a copy will be provided to you per your request or at any time.
● Right to an Accounting – You generally have the right to receive an accounting of disclosures of PHI regarding you. On your request, I will discuss with you the details of the accounting process.
● Right to Choose Someone to Act for You – If someone is your legal guardian, that person can exercise your rights and make choices about your health information; I will make sure the person has this authority and can act for you before I take any action.
● Right to Choose – You have the right to decide not to receive services with me. If you wish, I will provide you with names of other qualified professionals.
● Right to Terminate – You have the right to terminate therapeutic services with me at any time without any legal or financial obligations other than those already accrued. I ask that you discuss your decision with me in session before terminating or at least contact me by phone letting me know you are terminating services.
● Right to Release Information with Written Consent – With your written consent, any part of your record can be released to any person or agency you designate. Together, we will discuss whether or not I think releasing the information in question to that person or agency might be harmful to you.
● I am required by law to maintain the privacy of PHI and to provide you with a notice of my legal duties and privacy practices with respect to PHI. I reserve the right to change the privacy policies and practices described in this notice. Unless I notify you of such changes, however, I am required to abide by the terms currently in effect. If I revise my policies and procedures, I will provide you with a revised notice in office during our session.
If you are concerned that I have violated your privacy rights, or you disagree with a decision I made about access to your records, you may contact me, the State of Virginia Department of Health, or the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.