The State House on Tuesday passed a bill prohibiting hospitals from pursuing debt collection against patients if they fail to comply with a federal law that requires them to publish prices online.
If passed, House Bill 1285 would prohibit non-compliant hospitals from using debt collectors, filing negative credit reports against patients and obtaining judgments from state courts for unpaid debts. Non-compliant hospitals could still bill patients, but if they pursue collection actions, they must repay any debt paid by the patient, in addition to any legal fees.
“We’re finally going to have price convergence, price competition, and the macroeconomics of health care,” said Bill Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock. “It’s going to lead to a lot of savings for consumers and better health care.”
More than a year after it took effect, only 6% of Colorado hospitals are fully compliant with the price transparency law that allows patients to compare costs between hospitals, according to a report by PatientRightsAdvocate.org. This is below the national average of 14.3% compliance.
The House passed the bill by a 63-1 vote, with only Rep. Janice Rich, R-Grand Junction, voting against the bill. The bill will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.
The bipartisan bill is sponsored by the unlikely duo of Neville and Democratic Pueblo Rep. Daneya Esgar. It is the first time the ideological opponents have co-sponsored the same bill in the eight years they have served together.
“We don’t always think the same way, but on this specific bill, we are aligned. This is a consumer protection bill with respect to health care costs,” Esgar said. “It’s a good bill to point people in the right direction and to protect those seeking health care and to make sure they know exactly what’s going on in terms of pricing.”
Although lawmakers are united in supporting the bill, hospitals have strongly opposed it. At a public hearing on the bill, large hospital systems claimed the bill would lead to frivolous lawsuits, while smaller hospitals feared it would threaten their businesses because they lack the resources. to comply with price transparency at this time.
On Friday, lawmakers amended the bill to give smaller critical access hospitals with fewer than 25 beds more time to comply. For these hospitals, the bill would come into force in February 2023 instead of this month of August as for all other hospitals.
“It will help the country,” said Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, who proposed the amendment. “It’s to give them the ability to conform, rather than treating them like some people who have much bigger budgets.”
Rich – the only “no” to vote against the bill – has always opposed the measure, saying she is “just tired of government interference” in business.
Also this week, the House unanimously passed Bill 1284, which seeks to expand protections against surprise health insurance bills. If passed, the bill would align state law with the unsurprisingly federal law, which went into effect in January.
The bill provides additional protections for patients, such as requiring insurers to pay for post-stabilization services at the network level and to cover emergency health care services regardless of where they are. provided, also at the level of network services.