The KVUE Defenders uncovered more concerns involving medical billing transparency following a nation-wide investigation.
This time, complaints involve hospitals and other health care providers not providing reasonable cost estimates upfront or explaining the bill afterwards.
Bill Preston said it happened to him last year. The Dripping Springs resident said he nearly lost his life after falling ill.
An ambulance transported him to a local hospital after his wife thought he was having a stroke.
"My facial expressions were worsening, it was drooping, my speech was really slurred really bad," said Preston.
The hospital at the time could not treat his stroke, so he was transported to another hospital.
A few months later, he received this bill from the original hospital for $15,000. Preston isn’t sure what the bill is for because hospital staff could not treat his stroke.
"I don’t know, they did not send us any breakdown of what is was for," said Preston.
Preston’s frustration is one of thousands the KVUE Defenders heard from since a nation-wide investigation aired about a troubled medical billing system last week.
Most involve emergency room visits. In January, Jeremiah Dye went to an Austin stand-alone emergency room, concerned about his heart.
"I started feeling chest pains, it was a little uncommon because I’ve never felt something like that before," said Dye.
He provided his insurance at the front desk, but the hospital never once mentioned the facility was not in his network. He later learned, the walk-in fee was $5,000.
"So the system also allows them to be able to charge whatever they want," said Dye.
"Well, it’s outrageous," said Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Austin.
In 2015, the Texas U.S. representative authored the “End Surprise Billing Act.” If passed, it would prevent balance billing during emergencies, provide 24-hour notice of out-of-network providers and provide consumers with a cost estimate.
"Only when people voice their concerns and their experience can we get the support necessary to enact the law," said Doggett.
The Texas Medical Association (TMA) said not all healthcare providers are to blame for these surprise bills. The TMA said insurance companies need to do a better job of explaining its plans to consumers.
Here's a checklist which could help prevent a surprise medical bill for you:
- Ask your providers to list all staff treating you in your network
- Get insurance acceptance in writing
- Ask for an itemized bill