Past experiences with surprise medical bills drive issue knowledge, concern and attitudes toward federal policy intervention

Timothy Callaghan, Simon F. Haeder, Steven Sylvester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Scholars and journalists have devoted considerable attention to understanding the circumstances in which Americans receive surprise medical bills. Previous research on this issue has focused on the scope of the problem, including the conditions that are most likely to lead to surprise bills. However, the existing literature has almost exclusively relied on claims data, limiting our understanding of consumer experiences and attitudes toward policy changes to address surprise billing. Using a survey administered to a nationally representative sample of 4998 Americans, we analyze consumer experiences with surprise billing, knowledge of the issue, how concerned Americans are about receiving surprise bills and how past experiences influence policy preferences toward federal action on surprise billing. Our analysis demonstrates that knowledge and concern about surprise billing are the highest among the educated and those who have previously received a surprise bill. These factors also predict support for federal policy action, with high levels of support for federal policy action across the population, including among both liberals and conservatives. However, more detailed federal policy proposals receive significantly less support among Americans, suggesting that stand-alone policy action may not be viable. Our results show bipartisan support among American consumers for federal action on surprise billing in the abstract but no consistent views on specific policy proposals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)298-331
Number of pages34
JournalHealth Economics, Policy and Law
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 21 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Policy


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