News Headlines Article

California takes on surprise bills, over hospital objections
ABC News

Jiggy Athilingam was riding a bicycle in San Francisco five years ago when suddenly she was on a bed in the hallway of a hospital.

“What happened?” she asked.

A cracked helmet told the story of her memory loss: She had been hit from behind by a car. She spent 22 hours in a hospital emergency room, getting CT scans and painkillers before they sent her home. Four months later, as a Ph.D student living on a $35,000 stipend, she got a bill for $41,000.

She had the same question: What happened?

Athilingam had two forms of health insurance and assumed it would pay for most of her bills. Plus, California has laws protecting patients from surprise medical bills. But there is a loophole for emergency rooms. And because Athilingam was treated at a hospital that was outside of her health insurance company’s network, she got hit with a surprise bill — a common story in the country’s complex health care system.