Colorado lawmakers advance bill banning medical debt collection without price transparency | Content reserved for subscribers

Hospitals are required by the federal government to post prices online to allow patients to compare costs. Now, a Colorado bill seeks to prohibit hospitals from pursuing debt collection against patients if facilities fail to comply.

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.

“Hospitals just have to follow federal law,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Daneya Esgar, “and the bill gives patients the power of the courts to enforce their rights with respect to that law.” .

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According to a report by PatientRightsAdvocate.org. This is below the national average of 14.3% compliance.

The House Health and Insurance Committee unanimously approved the bill on Wednesday, sending it to the full House.

The bipartisan bill is sponsored by the unlikely duo of Pueblo Democrat Esgar and Castle Rock Republican Rep. Patrick Neville. It is the first time they have co-sponsored a bill in the eight years they have served together.

“It’s been so hard for us to find something we agree on, but we finally found it with this bill,” Neville said. “It will bring in a lot of market influence that the hospital system desperately needs. And most importantly, rather than create a new agency to enforce, we actually empower consumers to enforce the issue.

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Although the bill united lawmakers in the House, there was much debate at the committee meeting – mostly from opposition hospitals.

Representatives of large hospital systems claimed the bill would lead to frivolous lawsuits, while smaller hospitals feared it would threaten their businesses.

Kelly Erb of the Colorado Rural Health Center admitted that many rural hospitals do not comply with the federal law on price transparency and would be penalized by the bill.

“Many larger and better resourced health care systems are already fully compliant with federal rules and we commend them. … Rural settlements are working hard to get there, and we will get there. But our lack of workforce and IT infrastructure presents challenges.

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Proponents of the bill said its intention was to increase compliance.

“Only when consumers can shop around and compare prices before receiving care and see that an MRI can cost $300 or $3,000 can they make the best purchasing decisions for their health,” said Ilaria Santangelo, research director at PatientRightsAdvocate.org. “If they can’t see clear, real prices up front… how can they be expected to pay a bill they never saw coming?”

The committee also unanimously adopted HB 1284, which aims to extend protections against surprise health insurance bills. The bill would align the 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.

HB 1284 will be sent to the House Appropriations Committee.


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John A. Bogar