Consumers should have a right to know what they are being charged
STATE HOUSE – By a vote of 75-67, the Maine House of Representatives has passed a bill requiring hospital price transparency. Sponsored by Rep. Laurel Libby (R-Auburn), LD 953, “An Act to Protect Maine Patients Regarding Hospital Price Transparency,” requires that hospitals comply with federal price transparency requirements that are in effect. This bill would require Maine healthcare facilities to disclose their prices, and allow Maine citizens an avenue to take action against non-compliant facilities.
“Consumers have a right to know what they are being charged,” said Rep. Libby. “LLD 953 would further encourage compliance on the part of healthcare facilities by preventing collection of non-payment from patients if the hospital is not in compliance with transparency requirements. Providing direct recourse for Maine citizens is the best mechanism by which to ensure compliance. As Maine citizens continue to struggle to pay ever increasing healthcare costs, improving our statewide compliance with the federal rules will empower Mainers to make educated and informed healthcare decisions.”
In November of 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalized a rule requiring hospitals to publish prices, fulfilling a directive in an Executive Order signed by President Trump. For too long, the price of care at hospitals has been shrouded from patients, leaving them with unexpected bills after they receive care. This lack of transparency leaves patients in the dark, and renders them unable to make informed decisions about where and when to receive care. Efforts to improve transparency have been bipartisan, and aim to increase consumer knowledge, increase competition, and put downward pressure on the prices of medical devices and services. The final rule required hospitals to publish a machine-readable file of five types of standard charges for all items and services, and create a consumer-friendly, shoppable list of 300 items and services, including 70 identified by CMS.
Hospital compliance with this rule has been subpar since it took effect. As of February 2023, only an estimated 24.5 percent were in full compliance. Under the Biden Administration, HHS signaled support for these policies by increasing the penalties for hospitals who do not comply in regulation. The higher penalties went into effect January 1st, 2022. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have issued about 350 letters of warning to non-compliant hospitals, and have fined four hospitals. Several states (most recently Colorado) have passed price transparency legislation that encourages greater compliance with the rule by hospitals in their state.