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Ohio bill would require hospitals to post prices and limit collections if they don't

A generic hospital bill
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A generic hospital bill

A federal law says hospitals should be posting prices for some key services so patients can compare costs. But some Ohio lawmakers say that's not happening in most Ohio hospitals. And those legislators are sponsoring a bill that would make an Ohio law requiring hospitals to share that information publicly.

Rep Ron Ferguson (R-Wintersville) said patients deserve to know how much they'll be charged for medical care they are receiving. His bill (HB49)would codify the federal law. Ferguson said it does not create a new regulation for hospitals to follow but would mandate they follow the existing federal statute. But he said it creates some penalties for hospitals if they are not following that law.

"It prohibits hospitals from referring, assigning or selling medical debt to debt collectors. It prohibits hospitals from accessing the state court system to obtain judgment for an outstanding medical debt. It prohibits hospitals from filing negative credit reports against patients for outstanding medical bills," Ferguson said.

Ferguson said it would not prevent hospitals from billing for services, will not require hospitals to refund patients if they pay a bill then later find out the hospital was not in compliance and will not define new price transparency standards.

Rep. Tim Barhorst (R-Fort Laramie), co-sponsor of the bill, said hospitals should be held to the same standards as other businesses providing services.

“Name any business or sector or industry where the consumer is expected to make a purchase or enter into a voluntary exchange without seeing a price tag before,” Barhorst said.

Ferguson said Colorado has a similar version of this bill on its books and added Oklahoma is in the process of passing one too. He said there was bipartisan support for medical transparency from Presidents Obama, Trump and Biden. At this point, Ferguson and Barhorst's bill does not have support from any Democrats in the Ohio Legislature.

The bill is a priority for the Republicans supporting Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township), who lost the vote for speaker to Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill). The bill is not on Stephens' priority list.

John Palmer, director of public affairs for the Ohio Hospital Association, said his organization will be talking to the lawmakers sponsoring this bill.

"Ohio hospitals are committed to meaningful price transparency, and the Ohio Hospital Association looks forward to working with the sponsors and policymakers on this legislation," Palmer said.

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Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.