The expensive risk lurking in nearly every medical experience you have

When Melinda Massa, a retired special education teacher in Virginia, went for a blood test a few years ago, she was stunned to receive a whopping $1,200 bill later.

Massa assumed it was a mistake. But it wasn’t: The clinic, which was in-network, had sent the test to an out-of-network laboratory. Massa hadn’t even know that was possible until she got the bill.

“The clinic just said, ‘this is where we send stuff, this is how we do this,’” Tod Massa, her husband, said. “They didn’t really see a problem and they didn’t really care.”

Awareness of so-called “surprise medical bills,” which occur when an insured patient receives an unexpected bill for out-of-network care, has grown in recent years.

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