FAR TOO MANY Granite Staters and Americans have gone to a hospital for a medical emergency and then returned home saddled with an unexpected medical bill — sometimes to the tune of thousands of dollars — because they were treated by an out-of-network doctor.

Patients who thought they were following the rules and going to in-network hospitals instead found their family’s budget thrown into disarray — or found themselves deep in debt — because they were treated by an out-of-network doctor, often without their knowledge.

As of Jan. 1, patients are no longer on the hook for these types of surprise bills. I’ve heard about this problem from countless constituents, such as one Granite Stater who sought treatment after he cut his finger making dinner. He later was charged $3,500 because while he went to an in-network hospital, the physician who treated him there was an independent contractor whose services were not covered by the patient’s insurance.

Another Granite Stater from Seabrook visited an emergency room at a hospital that was within her insurance network, but later found out that a doctor she saw — and for only about five minutes — was out of network. She later was hit with a bill for more than $1,600. Stories like these show the outrageous circumstances patients have gone through after getting necessary medical care, and they highlight the need to ensure that our health care system puts patients first.

After hearing countless stories like these, I worked with my Republican colleague, Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, to build a bipartisan coalition and introduce legislation to help end surprise medical bills. We brought Democrats and Republicans together to find compromise and pass a solution into law.

Now, people in New Hampshire and across the country will not receive these absurd and unexpected medical bills. Our law protects patients from having to pay out-of-network prices for most emergency services, post-emergency stabilization services, and non-emergency services provided by out-of-network providers at in-network facilities.

For these covered services, hospitals and doctors can now bill patients only the in-network rates. And going forward, if patients receive higher bills for these services, they should contact a new hotline from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-985-3059. The New Hampshire Insurance Department can also provide help, and patients can reach the department at 1-800-852-3416 or 603-271-2261, or by email at consumerservices@ins.nh.gov. Granite Staters can get more information by visiting cms.gov/nosurprises/consumers.

These protections are a major win for patients. They are also a major win for public health. Ending surprise medical bills will save taxpayers billions of dollars, and those savings are put to use to extend funding for public health, including for New Hampshire’s community health centers.

Ending surprise medical billing is an important, common-sense step toward lowering costs for Granite Staters. But there is a lot more work to do to strengthen our health care system and ensure that all Americans have access to high-quality, affordable care. I am committed to working with my congressional colleagues and the people of New Hampshire to do just that.

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) lives in Newfields.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

CHRISTOPHER THOMPSON’S January 9 column, “People are quitting their jobs in record numbers”, points to management failures and an employee awakening as factors in the significant number of people changing jobs. I’d like to address a few things employers can do to retain and motivate workers.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

STOP THE PRESSES, because Kamala Harris got something right. That’s not something even her strongest allies have been able to say often — if at all — so when it happens, we should all take heed.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

A FEW YEARS AGO at a gathering in my town, a fiery speaker said that our government is reaching into our pockets through taxation in order to steal our hard-earned money to pay for programs that are simply giveaways to growing numbers of the “undeserving.” This is not true.

Monday, January 10, 2022

IN THE YEARS immediately following the Civil War it looked like the enfranchisement of former slaves and their descendants might actually happen. The 13th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution were ratified in 1868 and 1869 extending the full rights of citizenship — including the righ…

Sunday, January 09, 2022
Thursday, January 06, 2022

THE GENERAL definition of a mass casualty situation is one in which an incident or incidents overwhelm the medical resources, personnel, equipment, and supplies available to respond to these events. In many parts of the United States and around the world, this is exactly what is happening wi…

Wednesday, January 05, 2022
Tuesday, January 04, 2022

WHEN THE New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC) rejected a plan to double the cost of a program known as NHSaves, it reignited a debate about the value of ratepayer-funded energy efficiency. The questions at the heart of the debate concern the cost versus the benefits of these progr…