Colorado hospitals could soon be barred from pursuing debt collections against patients if they don’t publish their prices online, thanks to legislation passed by state lawmakers on Tuesday.
If adopted, House Bill 1285 would prohibit hospitals that fail to comply with federal price transparency laws 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.
“When you walk into a hospital, you need to know what the cost is in advance,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley. “You can look at different hospitals and say, ‘I want my surgery here because it’s cheaper than here.'”
The state Senate unanimously passed the bill on Tuesday after the House voted 63-1 last month. The bill will now go back to the House to approve the changes made by the Senate, and then to Governor Jared Polis for final consideration.
The bill united both sides of the aisle, receiving the sponsorship of two Democrats and two Republicans, in addition to near unanimous support from both houses.
Proponents of the bill say the state needs to act since, more than a year after it took effect, only 6% of Colorado hospitals are in full compliance with the Pricing Transparency Act that allows patients compare costs between hospitals, depending on a report from PatientRightsAdvocate.org. This is below the national average of 14.3% compliance.
“This is a consumer protection bill,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo. “It’s a good bill to steer 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.”
Hospitals have strongly opposed the bill, arguing that it would result in frivolous lawsuits for large hospital systems and threaten businesses in smaller hospitals that lack the resources to comply with price transparency at this time. .
Republican Senators Paul Lundeen of Monument and Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs raised similar concerns during Monday’s Senate debate, saying the bill could result in even smaller hospital capacities as hospitals in Colorado struggle during the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19.
“This is, in short, well-intentioned and thoughtless legislation,” Gardner said. “HB-1285 chooses a mechanism to enforce what the feds did not intend. … It’s draconian. It’s not a carving knife, it’s a meat cleaver. execution, but a cudgel.
The Senate voted to amend the bill to reduce the complaints patients can file against non-compliant hospitals, specifying that patients can only complain about price transparency for procedures relevant to their own care.
Last month, the House also 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.