Colorado hospitals will soon face a ban on pursuing debt collections against patients if they don’t publish their prices online – thanks to legislation signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday.
Early August, House Bill 1285 prohibits 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 can 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 making sure that when Coloradans go to the doctor, they don’t end up with surprise bills to get the care they need, and that hospital rates are available to increase competition and lower costs,” said Polished. “We’re taking a big step to keep money in the pockets of hard-working Coloradans.”
It comes as, 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 bipartisan-sponsored bill passed the legislature overwhelmingly, receiving only one “no” vote in the House and unanimous approval in the Senate.
“Hospitals are required to be open and honest about what they’re changing for patients,” said House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, who sponsored the bill. “Coloradoans deserve to know what they’re getting when it comes to health care, and this legislation protects them from surprise medical bills that are often outrageously expensive.”
Hospitals have 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.
As a compromise, lawmakers amended the bill to give smaller critical access hospitals with fewer than 25 beds more time to comply. For these hospitals, the bill will come into force in February 2023 instead of this August. Lawmakers also amended the bill to clarify that patients can only complain about price transparency for procedures relevant to their own care.
The only “no” vote against the bill came from Republican Grand Junction Rep. Janice Rich, who said she opposed the measure because she was “just tired of government interference. ” in the business.
Also on Wednesday, Polis signed House Bill 1284, which expands protections against health insurance surprise bills by aligning state law with the federal No Surprises Act. This came into force in January.
“We must do everything we can to protect Colorans from malicious surprise billing practices,” said Sen. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, who sponsored HB-1284. “This new law will increase patient protections, reduce the cost of health care for Coloradans, and improve patient outcomes as we work to build a healthier Colorado for all.”
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.