ATLANTA, GA, November 20, 2023 – Today, Georgia Watch, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, released an updated version of its Georgia Consumer Guide for Medical Bills and Debt. The guide provides information and resources for consumers to navigate their bill statements, file an appeal with their insurance provider, work out a payment plan with their healthcare provider, and more.
According to Executive Director Liz Coyle, the guide has helped thousands of Georgians work through confusing bills and stop aggressive medical debt collectors. “Too many Georgians avoid care or are burdened by medical debt because they don’t know their rights,” Coyle said. “We’ve recently updated our comprehensive guide with the most up-to-date information to help consumers navigate the complex healthcare system.”
The updated guide now includes information on immigrant and refugee health rights, emergency services rights, and surprise billing.
Immigrant and Refugee Health Rights
- Patients have the right to trained and qualified medical interpreters for free.
- A patient’s immigration status cannot be reported by their healthcare provider under HIPAA privacy laws.
- Refugees, asylees, asylum seekers, undocumented immigrants, humanitarian parolees, SIV holders, and victims of trafficking have access to some level of financial assistance or governmental aid.
Emergency Services Rights
- A patient’s insurance network may not cover air and ground ambulances. The No Surprises Act, a federal law, only protects consumers from out-of-network surprise medical bills from air ambulances.
- If a consumer requires emergency care, but their insurance is not accepted by the hospital they are taken to, they can only be asked to leave if (1) their doctors determine they do not need emergency transportation to get to an in-network facility, (2) the in-network facility is within reasonable travel distance, and (3) the patient gives consent to the transfer.
- Urgent care providers not licensed as “emergency service providers” are not covered by surprise billing laws.
- Surprise medical bills, or balance bills, occur when an insured patient receives treatment from an out-of-network provider in an in-network office without knowing it—and is billed the difference.
- If a consumer with health insurance receives a surprise bill, Georgia and federal law protects them from having to pay.
- If a consumer without health insurance receives a surprise bill, they may still be protected if the bill is more than $400 over the good faith estimate they consented to.
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About Georgia Watch
Founded in 2002, Georgia Watch is a statewide, non-profit consumer advocacy organization working to inform and protect Georgia consumers on matters that significantly impact their quality of life, including the effects of predatory business practices, the high cost of utilities and healthcare, and restricted access to the civil justice system.