As a lifelong educator that has taught children with special needs, I know first-hand how vital affordable healthcare is to every resident of Mobile. Healthcare costs are out of control and today, a new crisis is pushing these costs even higher: unfair billing practices that result in increased out-of-pocket costs for consumers.
The root of this problem lies with big corporate entities that acquire private doctor’s practices and then inflate prices for services delivered in those facilities. Almost 70 percent of independent physician practices, including many across Alabama, were under the control of hospitals in 2021, causing health care prices to increase by 14 percent on average.
This unfair billing system works against patients. It puts prices out of reach for those most in need, preventing them from receiving crucial health services. And it leaves communities across Alabama without reliable access to the care they need to thrive.
Everyone needs access to affordable care. And we must ensure that patients pay the same for services delivered at offsite hospital facilities as they would at private practice offices. By enforcing billing standards that promote equalized health care payments, we can lower consumer costs and protect access to care for vulnerable populations.
While I continue to champion affordable and accessible health care in Alabama, lasting change requires similar action at the federal level – and a solution is making its way through Congress through fair billing and site-neutral payment reform. Two bills have been introduced: the Facilitating Accountability in Reimbursements (FAIR) Act and the Site-based Invoicing and Transparency Enhancement (SITE) Act. The passage of these bills will ensure a more equitable and transparent health care system, making accessible health care a reality for all.
I urge all Members of Congress to advocate for the interests of all Americans in Washington, D.C., and to pass these two essential bills. Moving forward with these solutions would yield significant benefits for patients and small businesses, while also lowering government spending and massive taxpayer burdens. Not only would it reduce national health costs by a staggering $458 billion, but it would also decrease out-of-pocket expenses. Additionally, the government could save $150 billion in Medicare spending, and small businesses would reduce overall health insurance costs.
As a city councilman, I am dedicated to giving back to the community that raised me and supported me, and I see it as my responsibility to be a voice for your needs. I will continue to fight for the health and well-being of our city and its people, and I am committed to positively impacting the lives of our citizens through fair and just health care policies. I urge Congress to follow suit, secure our health care system for generations, and fully support fair and transparent billing to make health care affordable and accessible for all.
Cory Penn serves on the Mobile City Council.