Posted: May 08, 2013 | Senator Gratwick

Senator Gratwick, practicing physician, sponsors bill to make health care costs more transparent and fair


AUGUSTA – Senator Geoff Gratwick (D-Bangor) is sponsoring a bill to improve hospital transparency in billing, prompted in part by a recent report by Time Magazine that revealed exorbitant medical costs hidden in bills from hospitals in other states, including one charging $77 for a box of gauze for a patient diagnosed with lung cancer.


“When a patient goes to a hospital, they should know what they are paying for,” said Senator Gratwick, a practicing physician in Bangor. “Mainers can only make informed decisions about their health care if they have accurate information. Hospitals must make their charges transparent.”


The bill requires the Maine Health Data Organization to conduct an annual study of hospital financial data and present it to the public in a format that is easily understood by the public, and that allows consumers to compare hospital pricing so they can make informed choices in obtaining health care.


The bill also establishes the Commission to Study Transparency, Costs and Accountability of Health Care System Financing, made up of 11 members appointed by House and Senate Leadership. The Commission will evaluate current financial data reported by hospitals, including revenue and charges, and make recommendations about how to standardize financial reporting about costs and the quality of services to increase hospital billing transparency.  The Commission will also review and evaluate methods to reduce health care costs and the rate of increase in overall health care spending.


“X-rays of the spine cost from $50 – $500 depending where they are ordered,” Senator Gratwick continued. “This is unacceptable. We need to know costs before we have a test or a procedure.”


The bill, LD 1453, “An Act To Increase the Transparency of Charges and Expenses of Hospitals That Receive State Funding,” will have a public hearing before the Insurance and Financial Services Committee tomorrow, May 8, at 1 p.m. in room 220 of the Cross Building.