We live in a world where one of the leading causes of bankruptcy is medical expenses.

It’s a bad situation made worse by a practice called surprise medical billing. Across Michigan families face unexpected medical charges from care providers they did not know were outside of their plan’s network at the time they received care. We must take action to protect patients from these unexpected costs.

Surprise medical bills can occur for many reasons. The situation could arise in an emergency when the patient has no ability to select the care providers or facilities that offer treatment.

They might also arise when a patient receives planned care from an in-network provider but other treating providers — such as anesthesiologists, radiologists, pathologists or surgical assistants — are brought in to participate in the patient’s care who are not in the same network.

When surprise medical bills happen, patients can be on the hook for thousands and thousands of dollars. That's money they simply don’t have.

Recently, a local resident from my community reached out to me. He went in for knee surgery and took all the appropriate steps in calling ahead to determine if the facility was in his insurer’s network. The facility was in-network, but unfortunately, one of the doctors who assisted with the surgery that day was not. This gentleman was hit with a $2,000 bill that he hadn’t anticipated, one he could not afford to pay.

Unfortunately, his situation isn’t unique. About one out of every seven patients receives a surprise bill despite obtaining care at an in-network hospital.

This practice isn’t fair for Michigan patients and families.

Every individual has the right to know exactly how much money they will be charged before going in for medical treatment.

When facing a medical emergency, the last thing patients should have to worry about is whether each and every member of that medical facility is in-network. We’re living in a world where the leading cause of bankruptcy is medical expenses. Patients cannot avoid these unfair out-of-pocket costs without more transparency. They deserve to know what they’re getting into.

I recently partnered with one of my Democratic colleagues to introduce a fair, practical and bipartisan solution to this mess.

Our plan requires that medical providers give 24 hours’ notice if their service will result in out-of-pocket costs to a patient, along with a written estimate of those costs. In emergency situations, where consent cannot be given, the patient will still be protected from surprise fees.

Ultimately, this is about making health care more affordable for the people of our state. I’m committed to doing all I can to ensure every Michigan resident gets the care they need at a price they can afford.

Roger Hauck, R-Union Township, represents Michigan's 99th district in the Michigan House of Representatives.

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