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KIYC: New Jersey congressman wants hospitals to be transparent with pricing

Nearly 57% of Americans have been surprised by medical bills, according to one study.

Walt Kane

Jun 15, 2023, 2:32 AM

Updated 370 days ago

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Nearly 57% of Americans have been surprised by medical bills, according to one study.
Now, a congressman from New Jersey says he wants to help reduce those surprises by requiring hospitals to be more transparent about their pricing.
Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone is sponsoring a bill called the PATIENT Act of 2023. It would require hospitals to publish their standard prices for at least 300 “shoppable services” in a “consumer-friendly format.” Any hospital that failed to comply would face fines.
“It’s really what I call, ‘A right to know,’” Pallone says. “We want the information so consumers can be competitive.”
Kane in Your Corner found much of the data Pallone’s bill requires is already being provided online by New Jersey hospitals. Prices for identical services can vary.
For an MRI of the lower back, without contrast, transparency data showed patients at Atlantic Health System’s Overlook Medical Center would pay a cash price of $3,439. Patients at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Newark would pay a cash price of $2,998. But patients using St. Peter’s Healthcare System would pay a significantly lower cash price, $2,064. Patients at Hackensack University Medical Center would pay much lower, just $280.
Health care advocate AnnMarie McIlwain calls the PATIENT Act of 2023 “a step in the right direction” because it would give consumers a better opportunity to decide whether a nonemergency procedure is something they can afford.
“Just to prepare for this interview, I spent an hour trying to get at data,” McIlwain says. “And I know what I'm doing. So this is bloody hard. It's just too hard.”
Pallone tells Kane In Your Corner that he hopes reducing medical bills is something lawmakers from both parties can agree upon. His legislation was unanimously approved by a House committee. Pallone says he’s confident it will be signed into law.
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