We are halfway through week five of the 2020 Legislative session, and activity has reached a fever pitch on a number of issues.
It won’t come as a surprise to any in the healthcare field that “surprise billing” is a key issue this session. The insurance companies have a plan to protect the patient from balance bills from out-of-network providers – which has our strong support. Their idea, however, is to go much further by getting the government involved in rate setting and intervening in private contracting between providers and payors. Their initial bill had a few fatal flaws, so 10 days later, they introduced a second version of their “No Surprises Act.” It, too, is short on adequate definitions and clarity; as such, the House Health and Welfare Committee postponed the scheduled hearing based on issues raised by IHA.
Another proposal – promoted by eastern Idaho billionaire Frank VanderSloot – was introduced in the House today. While he originally wanted to clamp down on predatory medical debt collectors and exorbitant attorneys’ fees, he also feels people end up in collections because providers delay notifying patients about their bills until many months have passed since they received care. His bill will require providers to submit claims to insurance in a more timely manner. If multiple providers will be billing a patient for services provided in one of our hospitals or clinics, we will have the responsibility to provide that patient with a summary of all providers who may bill them. Failure on our part to meet the timelines for these and other requirements could mean we forfeit the ability to pursue legal action on unpaid debt. Today, the bill was introduced in committee. IHA is reviewing the legislation, which has many of the changes we recommended, and will have a more detailed evaluation soon.
While both of these issues seem to be the focus of current healthcare discussions in the Capitol, we at IHA continue to work to ensure that if those bills progress, they indeed protect the best interests of patients with as minimal impact on cost and burden to hospitals and healthcare systems as possible.
Meanwhile, there have been positive developments on other issues important to IHA. The Governor’s request for $500,000 to implement a statewide advance care directive registry was very well received by the budget committee and has seen a groundswell of strong support among other legislators. Authorizing language to establish this registry in the Department of Health and Welfare will be introduced tomorrow.
IHA’s efforts to make sure hospitals have the tools necessary to recruit and retain quality leadership led to our co-sponsorship of Senate bill 1242 which unanimously passed the Senate this week and now heads to the House. This legislation will provide flexibility to hospitals with nursing home beds when hiring executives. “By opening the education qualifications for nursing home licensing to be more reflective of the current education and training of executives, we help assure those vital facilities remain available,” said IHA’s Vice President of Governmental Relations, Toni Lawson.
One final piece of good news to share is that the Governor’s office and the Department of Health and Welfare have intervened to ensure our hospitals can continue to offer health fairs in their communities without violating administrative rules regarding physician orders for laboratory work conducted as part of the health fair. They recognized the immense value to each of our communities when our hospitals offer prevention and screening opportunities to the public – and want those efforts to be able to continue. The Department of Health and Welfare is developing guidance which will be sent to our members as soon as it’s available.
~Brian Whitlock, President/CEO