Stories from You: NBC Covers Musician’s Surprise Bill in C Major

Conor Laing
Assistant Policy Analyst

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

Last night millions of Americans tuned in to NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt and saw a true story about surprise medical bills.  Consumers Union story sharer Claudia Knafo, a pianist and a wife and mother, had received a spine surgery she thought would be covered by her insurance.  When she received a surprise  medical bill for $100,000, she panicked.  Claudia had done all she could possibly be asked to do; she asked the surgeon if he was in-network, she contacted the hospital, she went online to the surgeon’s website. In her words, “I did beyond my homework.”

And yet, the surgeon turned out to be out-of-network and Claudia was on the hook for a $100,000 bill that she couldn’t pay.  And she’s not alone. The NBC Nightly News story includes a statistic from our survey showing that 37 percent of recent hospital patients have received a surprise medical bill.  Claudia’s huge bill was finally resolved, but only after three years of fighting.

The attorney who helped Claudia, Benjamin Lawsky, says consumers who receive surprise bills should fight it, “and they should be loud.”  Says Lawsky, “[Consumers] should contact their attorney general’s office in their state, they should contact their insurance regulator in their state.”

But many times, consumers cannot successfully fight their surprise medical bills, especially if there are no surprise billing protections in their state.  That is why we are fighting to get protections in place at the state and federal level.  U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas introduced a federal bill last Fall, and several states including California and New Jersey are also considering protections.  States including New York, Connecticut, and Florida have achieved strong protections,  and states like Texas and Arizona have taken the first steps toward protecting consumers.

This is an enormous problem, but together we will win the battle to end surprise medical bills. Please sign our petition and share your story to help us illustrate the huge impact of surprise medical bills. Your story may even end up on national news!

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