The other day we got a preview of the headwinds the hospital field can expect to face when the Maryland General Assembly session opens in seven weeks.
MHA participated in a Senate committee briefing on facility fees. At the briefing, MHA highlighted our field’s proactive effort to improve transparency for patients. Products of the initiative were a consumer fact sheet on facility fees, voluntary uniform disclosure standards for your hospitals, and a letter of commitment for hospitals to sign saying they will adopt the standards. Most of your hospitals already have signed on.
Despite these efforts and our collective work to educate lawmakers, regulators and consumers, it’s apparent from both the public event and our private encounters with legislators that they will be hard to please.
As you know, consumers’ cost exposure—not just facility fees but also surprise bills, debt collection, and more—makes daily headlines and stirs ire from lawmakers in Maryland and nationwide. Much more of that frustration is aimed at hospitals than at the insurers whose narrow networks, restrictive coverage policies, and high deductibles cause that exposure.
On the matter of debt collection—which is linked to financial assistance for patients in need—we expect lawmakers to propose legislation to overhaul hospitals’ practices. MHA, again, is out front. MHA’s Executive Committee last week considered a set of proposed principles that will demonstrate Maryland hospitals’ dedication to fairness and compassion for all patients.
The Executive Committee also addressed yet another threat to hospitals’ ability to deliver essential services: the medical liability crisis. The committee heard that reinsurers that backstop hospitals for the cost of large awards have come to view Maryland as almost toxic—all because the rules are tilted against hospitals. The committee endorsed a muscular legislative strategy to bring some sanity to the rules governing the resolution of malpractice cases.
Expect to hear more from us on all these topics in the weeks ahead. To succeed in the legislative session, we will need collective action and a unified message.