Hospital billing and collection practices are in the news a lot lately, often misinformed and sensational. Maryland legislators are paying attention. Legislative action is coming this General Assembly session on hospitals’ cost transparency, financial assistance policies, and account collection practices.
The hospital field has an opportunity to lead—to preempt impractical mandates and shape any legislation that is enacted so it will truly help patients. Your MHA team is getting into all the right rooms in Annapolis. We’ve already influenced bill language greatly, though we’re not done by any measure.
Last month, I was pleased to tell legislators, in a public session, that all Maryland hospitals and health systems are committed not to use immigration or legal residency status to screen for, or to award, financial assistance. That hospital-led move was well received.
All hospitals do want patients to get timely, useful information on costs and to help ease their out-of-pocket cost burdens. This job gets harder as insurers shift more costs onto consumers. Many of you are improving practices to explain costs and billing and to tell eligible patients about available relief from hospital bills.
So, beyond our work on the statutory/regulatory front, we will gather up best practices—from within Maryland and beyond—and convene hospital leaders to help all MHA members help consumers to gain a clearer understanding of their costs.
Yet, hospitals alone cannot deliver patients a complete solution to cost exposure. We cannot predict costs of all episodes, and we don’t have all the information needed to tell patients their out-of-pocket cost-sharing responsibility. Insurers, regulators and others need to join with us to make the difference.