The exorbitant cost of health care is a well-known issue for countless families across the country. Patients, health care professionals and lawmakers alike need to work overtime to bring problematic practices in our health care system to light.
When it comes to lowering health care costs, ensuring fair medical billing must be part of the discussion. In recent years, there has been an uptick in major hospitals acquiring independent community health care practices. When looking closer at this trend of consolidation of medical practices, a concerning pattern emerges new corporate hospital owners will raise the cost of care even though there is no change in services delivered. The vehicle to increase patient expenses? Tacking on hospital facility fees.
These high prices are problematically added to medical invoices by hospitals when services are administered at so-called hospital outpatient departments, which are facilities owned and operated by big hospitals. More times than not, these extra charges are added without the knowledge of the patient. Our neighbors, family members and friends need to be aware of this issue, as do our elected leaders who are in positions of power to address it.
In Alabama, it is no secret that many of our communities deal with critical health issues. An array of chronic health conditions exist across Alabama, with concerning projections showing that the total cost of managing chronic disease in our state will be a whopping $671 billion from 2016-2030. With this outlook in mind, any opportunity to lower health care costs should be a top priority when our leaders come to the policymaking table.
For these reasons, I urge my federal representatives, Senator Katie Britt, Senator Tommy Tuberville, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, and the entire Alabama delegation to support legislation that would make a meaningful impact on health care costs for state residents. Fortunately, there are measures before Congress right now that would ensure fair hospital billing and implement site-neutral payments to benefit both patients and taxpayers supporting the Medicare program.
The Site-based Invoicing and Transparency Enhancement Act (SITE) in the Senate and the Facilitating Accountability in Reimbursements Act (FAIR) in the House of Representatives would be crucial steps towards ensuring medical bills are more reasonable – regardless of where care is delivered. Site-neutral billing is a solution that would prevent hospitals from charging exorbitant prices for medical procedures. This would also benefit the Medicare program by ensuring costs remain consistent across the board.
I am encouraged to see the significant bipartisan momentum to address these facility fees through the SITE and FAIR Acts. The potential impact of the site-neutral payment reform legislation is significant, with projections indicating a possible reduction of $153 billion in Medicare spending and a corresponding decrease of $94 billion in health care costs for Medicare beneficiaries. The site-neutral savings go even further by reducing national health expenditures by as much as $672 billion. With high inflation and everyday expenses growing daily, that money can go back into the pockets of hard-working Americans.
Something as critical as health care for ourselves and our loved ones should not be an uphill financial battle. Surely, fair medical billing is something all of our elected leaders can get behind in Washington to make an impact on the daily lives of every American. Making meaningful changes to bring health care costs down often seems insurmountable. But it all starts with small steps, and fair billing reform is part of the way forward.