Measure proposed to help patients find best medical pricing - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Measure proposed to help patients find best medical pricing

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV/AP) -

Two North Carolina lawmakers are proposing a measure aimed at helping patients find the best prices on medical procedures.

Senators Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) and Harry Brown (D-Onslow), filed the legislation Wednesday.

The goal is to improve medical billing transparency, reduce health care costs, and help consumers make better-informed decisions about their treatment.

A statement from the senators says the bill would require hospitals and outpatient surgery centers to disclose all treatment costs associated with the top 50 most common procedures performed at their facilities.

That information would then be published via the North Carolina Health Information Exchange, the state's public information forum.

The bill would also require hospitals to make public how much it has been reimbursed by its top five insurers for those common procedures. In addition, hospitals would have to release how much was paid by those on Medicare and Medicaid, and how much those without any insurance were charged.

Hospitals would also have to clearly make public its programs for charity care and how much it has spent on that care in the previous year.

The bill would also prevent hospitals and outpatient surgery centers from charging patients twice for radiology services provided once.

State Senator Jeff Tarte (R-Corneilus) tells WBTV News the bill is well-intentioned, but will only have "a placebo effect."

He says it won't do anything to lower prices, or change patient behavior.  Tarte says he is instead working to pull together a group of stakeholders in health care to work on the larger cost issue.  

Novant Health, operator of Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, says it understands health care billing is complex and confusing to most people. Senior Vice President Bob Seehausen says in a written statement, "Novant Health supports transparency in medical costs and will continue to work with all parties involved on this complex issue—payers, legislators, physicians and others—to ensure we are providing the highest level of service and information to our patients related to their individual needs."

Carolinas HealthCare System also sent WBTV a written statement saying they are conducting a detailed review of the bill and, "...Regarding the major Medicaid provisions in the bill, we look forward to working with our Senate and House leaders to transform, not only the Medicaid budget, but also the way care is delivered to our patients under Medicaid..." The statement concluded, "...Even as laws and regulations change, Carolinas HealthCare System's commitment to our patients and their needs remains a priority."

The bill which was introduced on Wednesday has been referred to the Senate Health Committee.

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