Post by Bob Cohen, Policy Director, Citizen Action of New York
A hospital stay can be among the most stressful events in the life of many people. And for some, the stress can continue after you are discharged – due to the simple fact that all too many hospitals simply are unable to present you with a clear bill telling you what you owe. This can lead to months or even years of phone calls, letters and emails to resolve the dispute, and other consequences like collection lawsuits and wrecked credit.
When you buy a new refrigerator, you generally get a single bill at the store: not one bill for the refrigerator when you buy it, and six months later, for the ice tray. Not so with hospitals. As HCFANY’s new publication, Patients Need Clear Hospital Bills – Not the Runaround! says, all too many patients “receive bills months after their visit, or from doctors or other providers not affiliated with the hospital or who the consumer didn’t remember seeing … Many consumers don’t contest questionable hospital charges and just give up.”
New state legislation known as the Patient Medical Debt Protection Act (A8639/S6757), lead sponsored by Assembly Health Committee chair Richard Gottfried and Senate Health Committee chair Gustavo Rivera, Finance chair Senator Liz Kreuger, and Insurance chair Neil Breslin, addresses the hassles consumers face due to unclear and deceptive hospital bills. The legislation requires that consumers get a single consolidated, itemized bill or statement from the hospital detailing the specific services the patient received during their hospital visit and what you actually owe (vs. your health insurer) within seven days of their discharge or at their request. And the charges would have to be based on standard price data for procedures like a hip replacement.
This critical omnibus legislation addresses a number of other consumer problems with hospital bills, like high interest rates on amounts owed, and large “facility fees” – charges added to bills that do not represent medical services. HCFANY will be campaigning hard to get this legislation passed in 2020. Visit this page for ideas on how you can help: https://wethepatientsny.org/wtp_campaigns/one-visit-one-bill/!