Connecticut, New Jersey wrestle with bills to limit surprise hospital charges

Industry tries to water down transparency provisions for consumers
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Statehouses in Connecticut and New Jersey are considering bills that would provide patients some level of cost transparency and allow them to avoid surprise charges by out-of-network providers. But both pieces of legislation have run into resistance from hospital lobbies, which have moved to water them down.

In Connecticut, the House of Representatives passed a bill that banned hospital facility charges when patients receive outpatient care, but hospitals may still collect some charges until 2017, the New Haven Register reported. However, hospitals and centers would only have to provide prices for many of the procedures they perform if the patient requests the information.  

Going forward, regulators will scrutinize hospital mergers and acquisitions, which will also be subject to a market impact review, the publication reported.

In New Jersey, lawmakers backed off on caps on bills to patients that would not exceed 2.5 times the median cost of such services, according to NJ.com. However, hospitals and other providers would have to notify patients well prior to an elective procedure who is involved in the surgery and how much the procedure would cost. However, NJ.com reported that a hearing of the Assembly Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee was inundated by hospital executives and physicians who chafed about the thought of having to provide prices well in advance.

Surprise bills are not new to patients, although they can come in different forms. A dispute among providers can lead to such a bill, or they can be generated in the form of facility fees hospitals charge at medical practices or outpatient surgical centers they own, which has caused some criticism among patients. Connecticut's attorney general has criticized the latter practice.

The Connecticut bill is expected to quickly pass the Senate, the New Haven Register reported. The New Jersey bill appears to be much earlier in the legislative process, according to NJ.com.

To learn more:
- read the New Haven Register article 
- check out the NJ.com article

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