Bill to cap hospital bills for uninsured

Hospitals in Colorado may have to limit how much they charge uninsured patients, reported Colorado Public Radio.

State lawmakers today are considering a bill that would ban hospitals from charging uninsured people full retail prices for medical care. Instead, hospitals bills would be capped at the actual cost of care, according to The Denver Post.

According to bill author Sen. Irene Aguilar, some hospitals charge patients up to 800 percent of their costs, CPR noted.

With such steep mark-ups, it should not be surprising that data last spring from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services showed that less than one-eighth of the 50 million Americans who lack health insurance can afford to pay their hospital bills.

"People want to pay their bills. (The proposed law) gives people more chances to take responsibility," Serena Woods of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative told the Post.

While acknowledging at least 500 percent mark-ups as standard, the Colorado Hospital Association pointed out that the state's hospitals provide more than $1 billion a year in free or discounted care, according to CPR.

In addition to combating hefty hospital prices for the uninsured, the bill also aims to enhance transparency by requiring providers clearly inform patients about discounts and charity care. Hospitals also must include those policies in plain language in every bill or contact, according to the Post.

In another push for price transparency, pending legislation in Florida would require providers post price signs for their 50 most common procedures and force hospital-owned urgent care centers to post whether they charge emergency room prices.

 To learn more:
- read the CPR article
- read the Denver Post article