A Weymouth-based health care provider has agreed to pay the state $260,000 to settle allegations that it used “surprise billing” methods with patients at South Shore Hospital, the attorney general’s office said in a statement Tuesday.
Authorities say South Shore Anesthesia Associates, the anesthesia provider for the hospital , did not “adequately disclose to certain patients that SSAA was out of network with those patients’ health plans” and then sought to collect “unfairly high charges” from the patients.
The sum South Shore Anesthesia Associates owes to the state includes a $185,000 civil penalty, the attorney general’s office said.
“Massachusetts residents have a right to transparency when it comes to their health care and should not be subjected to surprise billing practices when seeking medical care,” Attorney General Maura Healey said. “Health care providers should take the appropriate steps to provide consumers with adequate information to allow them to make informed health care decisions and avoid unexpected charges.”
The attorney general’s office said it began investigating the business after receiving complaints from patients at South Shore Hospital, which was an in-network provider for them.
Authorities say it was when the patients received a bill they learned for the first time that South Shore Anesthesia Associates was out-of-network for their health plans, leaving them faced with far higher charges than that of an in-network provider.
The attorney general’s office accepted an assurance of discontinuance from South Shore Anesthesia Associates, meaning the business has agreed to settle without admitting liability or any wrongdoing, according to the settlement.
In addition to the payment, the provider has agreed to stop billing and collecting remaining balances for patient accounts involving out-of-network services or uninsured patients, and to forgive the debts incurred by those patients; inform any outside collection agencies it has used that debts incurred by those patients have been satisfied; and take steps to have patients’ accounts removed from any applicable credit report or credit reporting agency, the attorney general’s office said.
The attorney general’s office said anyone with questions or concerns about their health insurance claims or medical bills can contact the office’s Health Care Helpline at 888-830-6277 or file a complaint online.
Nick Stoico can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico.