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Doctors take fight over ER bills to state high court

The Seattle Times, December 10, 2010

A dog bite, a broken leg, a car accident: Such events often bring patients to emergency rooms.

If you're "lucky" — read conscious — you might be able to pick a hospital that's in your insurer's network.

Later, the hospital's bill comes and goes, mostly paid by your insurer. But then you get a second bill — from the emergency doctors who treated you. As it turns out, they don't actually work for the hospital and aren't in your insurer's network. Their bill is often really big.

That bill, and who should pay, is at the heart of legal action filed Thursday by two doctors' groups with the Washington State Supreme Court.

They want the court to make the state's insurance commissioner force insurers to pay emergency doctors' bills — whatever the amount — for an insured patient. They say they have a 1997 law on their side.

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