Op-ed: Surprise medical bills are ‘morally repugnant’

By some estimates, over half of Americans have received “surprise” medical bills that they thought would have been covered by insurance.

In a December 9, 2019 Boston Globe opinion piece, Ashish Jha, K.T. Li Professor of Global Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, described some situations in which patients receive these bills. For example, a patient might undergo surgery with an in-network doctor in an in-network hospital, but later receive a steep bill from the anesthesiologist, who is out of network. Or a patient might need treatment in an emergency room, and it could be in-network, but they could get a separate bill from an out-of-network ER doctor.

Certain physician companies are the primary culprits behind these surprise bills, Jha explained. The companies choose not to negotiate with insurers, instead billing patients thousands of dollars.

Jha called these practices “morally repugnant.” He wrote, “To financially ruin our patients when they are sick shows a moral rot in our community.”

He said one way to fix the system would be to cap how much providers can charge for out-of-network services.

Read Jha’s Boston Globe op-ed: Ending surprise billing: A moral test for physicians