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Senate tries to demystify hospital bills

Posted May 9, 2013
Updated May 10, 2013

Costs of doing business added into hospital bills

— Consumers would be able to compare prices for various medical procedures upfront under a bill that the state Senate passed unanimously Thursday.

Senate Bill 473 would require hospitals to outline the costs they would charge to someone without insurance, as well as to people covered by Medicaid, Medicare, the State Health Plan and the range of rates negotiated with insurers.

The information would be provided quarterly to the state Department of Health and Human Services, starting next March, for the 100 most common inpatient and outpatient procedures. The state would then make those figures publicly available.

"All of this is very important for the consumer, whether that be the patient or the businesses or individuals who buy health insurance," said sponsor Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg.

By dividing the procedures into "diagnostic related groups," Rucho said, the state can prevent providers from bundling different services together, giving consumers a better comparison of prices charged by various hospitals.

"I think it really is a consumer bill of rights," said Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham. "(It will) get some good data out there that we all need to have available to make intelligent decisions before we consume health care services."

Other portions of the legislation, which now heads to the House, would require hospital bills to explain charges in plain language, prevent wage garnishment of anyone who owes a hospital bill to a public hospital, require hospitals to post their charity care policies and costs online and prevent providers from charging repeated fees for services provided only once.

"This is a first step that we in North Carolina are making forward in trying to get some control in the price of health care," Rucho said, promising more legislation in the future.



5 Comments

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  • lessismore May 9, 2013

    Easier to file income taxes than figure out a hospital bill.

  • whatelseisnew May 9, 2013

    Next they should try to demystify the statements people get from Medicare. They want you to verify the payments to providers are accurate. I tried doing that for my 80+ y.o mother in law and it proved impossible. There was not a way to do a one for one match of a doctor or hospital bill to the list of payments on the Medicare statement. The best I could do was to make sure that any provider that had been paid had actually provided some form of treatment to my MIL. What you actually need is a detailed breakdown of each and every bill that aligns with the list of payments Medicare makes to the providers. Most providers are not going to want to do that.

  • whatelseisnew May 9, 2013

    Well this is a small start, but the treatment costs are only part of the issue. Frequently you pay for someone just because the hospital has the person available. I refused to pay an emergency room doctor. It was a treatment for a laceration. Involved were a nurse and a Physicians Assistant. No doctor ever even spoke to me let alone do anything for me. I got a hospital bill that included the emergency room, a tetanus shot and some other items used in the treatment. It was a ridiculous amount, but I paid it. Three weeks later a bill comes from a Doctor. I had no idea who this Doctor was. I contacted the office and was told that this Doctor was on duty in the room that night. I said fine, the Doctor did nothing for me so I am shredding your bill. I refuse to pay for this kind of nonsense. Unfortunately most insurance companies will just pay whatever bill gets sent to them. That needs to change. The patient should have to OKAY every payment before it is made.

  • Tax Man May 9, 2013

    All medical procedures should be competitive and it should not matter if you have insurance or not as to getting the price! All medical facilities should have to post their prices online and at all facilities at all times and if they offer a discount to anyone it should be to all and published. You should be able to choose and pay the lowest price for the best service. All insurance should merely pay you back for what you paid the medical provider - they should not be in bed together and your insurance should not pay them directly but only in a check payable jointly to you and the medical provider.

  • Mr. Middle of the Road May 9, 2013

    If this legislature manages to demystify hospital bills that may overcome all of the harm they are doing otherwise.