HealthLeaders-InterStudy, a leading provider of managed care market intelligence, reports that physicians in Orange County, Calif., face a number of challenges in the coming year, including new restrictions on billing patients. According to the new Orange County Market Overview, regulations issued by the California Department of Managed Health Care prohibit an out-of-network physician from billing a health plan member for charges not covered by insurance, a practice commonly referred to as balance billing.
"The regulations against balance billing are a challenge for all physicians operating in Orange County, Calif., but will be particularly challenging for emergency room physicians who often see uninsured or under-insured patients," said Josh Kelley, market overview analyst with HealthLeaders-InterStudy. "In locations where emergency room access is already a challenge, this ruling will make it worse as hospitals continue to struggle with reimbursement issues."
The agency began implementation of the regulations in October 2008, and was challenged in a lawsuit filed by physician organizations. While the lawsuit was rejected in December 2008, it is likely to be appealed.
"Balance billing will continue to be an issue to watch in markets across the state, particularly as the California health plan market is known for strong HMO networks, giving physicians little leverage," said Kelley. "However, challenges around balance billing are not confined to California. For instance, our recent Indianapolis Market Overview finds that balance billing will be up for discussion in the 2009 legislative session as Indiana lawmakers will be debating a bill that seeks to limit dual billing by providers when patients receive emergency treatment from out-of-network physicians."
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