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A recent study conducted by the Health Care Cost Institute reveals that one in five hospital patients in Maryland who received treatment at an in-network medical facility were sent an unexpected bill for out-of-network treatment or services. After analyzing almost 620,000 in-network admissions from hospitals in 37 states and the District of Columbia, only New Jersey, California, Kansas and Florida had a higher frequency of out-of-network charges.

The results of the HCCI study suggest that patients are frequently billed for out-of-network treatment despite taking steps to ensure that their doctors and hospitals are in-network and covered by their health insurance policies. The researchers behind the study say that this is because patients have no way of finding out whether or not the doctors who will be treating them and the laboratories that will be used for medical testing are in their networks.

According to the HCCI, unexpected out-of-network bills are becoming more common because health insurance policies are now more complex and feature narrower networks. The nonprofit research group also says that health insurance providers now scrutinize claims more closely and use more restrictive reimbursement models. After examining the data, anesthesiology emerged as the medical specialty with the largest share of out-of-network bills and lab work was found to be the most common cause of out-of-network charges.

Unexpected medical bills can make the financial situations of those already struggling to make ends meet completely unmanageable. However, the nations bankruptcy laws provide an escape from overwhelming debt and offer the possibility of a fresh start. Attorneys with debt relief experience might explain how filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition allows individuals to repay all or part of their debts over three to five years while protecting their assets. A personal bankruptcy also generates an automatic stay, which prohibits creditors or bill collectors from taking any further action to recover unpaid debts. To learn more about these issues, debtors might consider reading a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy blog.