New tactic for sky-high hospital bills: Let employer groups set their own prices

Here's a new way to deal with sky-high hospital bills: Just say no.

That's the response recommended by ELAP, a Pennsylvania-based benefits consulting firm that works with employer groups to figure out what they should actually pay hospitals, Kaiser Health News has reported.

ELAP figures out what a hospital should be paid by combing over its own financial filings to Medicare, and then adding a small cushion for a profit, according to Kaiser Health News.

The service is proving invaluable given the continuing rise of hospital bills--and the growing number of bills that are in the six and sometimes even seven figures.

In one case, ELAP ratcheted down a $600,000 bill for a spinal fusion surgery to $28,900--the hospital cashed the check and did not complain. "This is the best form of true healthcare reform that I've come across," Eric Hartter, chief financial officer for Huffines Auto Dealerships in Texas and the ELAP client in this instance, told Kaiser Health News. As a result of using ELAP, Huffines' healthcare costs and employee contributions have remained unchanged in the past six years.

The way ELAP conducts business is in contrast to what many patients face--states have often pulled back on laws that provided greater transparency on what they should expect from their hospital bills.

ELAP also apparently offers flexibility to employer groups, which are free to use any hospital. ELAP handles all bills in return for a percentage of the total hospital charges. 

Hospitals that get the ELAP treatment balance bill patients about 20 percent of the time, but eventually they will go away, according to Kaiser Health News. Individual consumers cannot use ELAP's services, but there are other companies that allow them to bid on the prices, the Los Angeles Times reported.

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article 
- check out the Los Angeles Times article