Michigan voters say insurance companies should pick up the tab for surprise billing

EAST LANSING — When it come to the question of who should bear financial responsibility when patients receive unexpected, out-of-network medical bills, Michigan voters overwhelmingly agree that the answer is insurance companies, according to a recent statewide poll conducted by Epic-MRA.

“The consensus is clear on this issue,” said S. Bobby Mukkamala, MD, President of the Michigan State Medical Society. “Across all geographies and demographic subsets, voters overwhelmingly believe that insurance companies should be the ones paying the tab when patients receive a surprise, out-of-network bill.”

Fifty-nine percent of survey respondents believe health insurance companies should be held financially responsible for surprise medical bills, with only six percent believing the burden should rest on patients, and 3 percent indicating that physicians and other medical providers should foot the bill.

“There was really no ambiguity here on the question of who should be held financially responsible for surprising billing, and that isn’t that surprising considering nearly half of survey respondents also believe insurance companies are most responsible for this creating this problem in the first place,” Mukkamala said.

Forty-eight percent of survey respondents believe health insurance companies are most responsible for patients receiving surprise medical bills, with hospitals receiving the next most responsibility at 20 percent.

Michigan lawmakers are currently considering HB 4459, which tackles the problem of surprise billing. The bill has passed through the House of Representatives and is now set to be considered by the Senate. Before sending the legislation to the Senate, the House added a provision that allows insurance companies to “reimburse” the patient instead of non-participating providers in these situations.

“As it’s currently written, HB 4459 shifts the burden of surprise billing onto the backs of physicians and puts patients firmly in the middle of any billing disputes, which is exactly what Michigan residents don’t want when it comes to dealing with this problem, said Mukkamala. “As lawmakers continue to deliberate on how to best address surprise billing, they should know that sort of plan is completely misaligned with where Michigan resident are on this issue.”

The Epic-MRA statewide poll surveyed 600 likely Michigan November voters and has a margin of error of +/- 4 points. The survey was conducted by live interviewers starting on July 25, 2020, and running through July 30, 2020.

The Michigan State Medical Society is the statewide professional association of 15,000 physicians in Michigan and is affiliated with the American Medical Association. Physician policies on various issues involving public health, health care delivery and medical ethics are set at the annual MSMS House of Delegates meeting. — B.G.