Shining a light on suprise medical billing

Millions of Americans struggle to pay medical bills, with over 20% of Wisconsinites reporting having a past due medical bill.  Frustrating the situation are “surprise medical bills,” or charges billed when a person with insurance receives care from an out-of-network provider. This happens either by mistake, because the provider is practicing in an in-network facility, or in an emergency situation, because the patient visits an out-of-network facility.

Charges can be extremely high for out-of-network care – resulting in outrageous medical bills that anyone would struggle to pay. Students at the Center learn that this problem is best approached by addressing state law. Thankfully, several states have done just that.

A Wisconsin state senator, Jeff Smith, approached the Center for Patient Partnerships looking for our expertise and a patient perspective on this issue.  With the supervision of our staff, a group of law students researched legislation passed in other states, comparing other laws relevant to each jurisdiction. The group presented this to the senator and his staff.

“The most interesting part of the project was how receptive the senator was to our research and recommendations,” said Emily Yslas, student team leader. “While creating better laws seems abstract, working on creating our findings succinct, digestible allowed us to share the patient’s perspective and provide recommendations to improve the current bill.”

A project like this can be a win-win for students and our community. “In law school, it can feel like you don’t have a lot of impact on our justice system,” says Yslas. But through this CPP experience, I was able to see my team’s research inform and change the decisions of law markers in Wisconsin.”