Oct. 12 (UPI) -- Nearly one in eight people with private health insurance receive a "surprise" bill for out-of-network expenses after undergoing an elective colonoscopy, an analysis published Monday by Annals of Internal Medicine found.
The average amount of these charges was more than $400, the researchers said.
A colonoscopy is used to screen for colon cancer -- a disease that affects 150,000 people per year in the United States -- through the insertion of a colonoscope, a 4-foot-long flexible tube outfitted with a camera, into the bowel, according to the American Cancer Society.
Currently, the society recommends that adults undergo their first colonoscopy at around age 45 as part of routine cancer screening.
For this study, researchers at the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan reviewed 1.1 million claims from a large national insurer to estimate the prevalence, amount and source of out-of-network claims for people with private health insurance who underwent elective colonoscopies between 2012 and 2017.
All of the endoscopists -- the specialists who performed the procedures -- and facilities used by participants included in the analysis were in-network.
Among the evaluated insurance claims, 12% of cases received out-of-network claims, with an average surprise bill of $418, the researchers said.
The bills often came because of the use of out-of-network anesthesiologists and out-of-network pathologists, the researchers said.