HOSPITALS TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR VIOLATING TRANSPARENCY LAW GOAL OF NEW BILL
18 of 34 Maine hospitals in direct violation of 2014 law
AUGUSTA – A measure to penalize hospitals that are not in compliance with transparency laws was introduced at a public hearing in the state’s Insurance and Financial Affairs Committee yesterday.
“Our health care is in a crisis” said Democratic State Senator Geoff Gratwick of Bangor, the sponsor of the measure and a physician who practices medicine in Bangor. “It is unaffordable for too many Mainers. The price of getting care is beyond the reach of all too many of our family, friends and neighbors.”
In 2014, the Maine Legislature passed an “Act to Clarify the Law Governing Public Disclosure of Health Care Prices” which was supposed to make the prices and costs of health care services publicly accessible through databases or web sites. “Our current health care system is based on the idea that competition will bring down prices” said Dr. Gratwick. “Unfortunately, this is not true. The medical market is not a real market—it lacks accountability and is incomprehensible to the consumer.”
According to a newly-released study by Dr. Gratwick and four Husson University nursing students, only 14 of 34 Maine’s hospitals were in compliance with the 2014 price transparency law. “We called all of Maine’s hospitals and frankly many of them were not interested in providing us with the information we asked for” said one of the student authors of the study. “Our system is not geared to help many of our patients.”
A federal report found that there is significant variation in prices for the same medical procedures at different hospitals. Here in Maine, the average price of pneumonia treatment is $20,058 at York Hospital, but only $5,402 at Northern Maine Medical Center in Fort Kent.
The current bill is designed to encourage hospitals to be more consumer friendly.
The Insurance and Financial Affairs Committee will hold a work session on the measure, LD 813, “An Act To Ensure That Hospitals Comply with the Laws Governing Transparency of Medical Billing” in the coming weeks.