By: Rob Low

Date: Mar 24, 2023

DENVER (KDVR) — Despite fierce opposition from the state’s network of hospitals, Colorado’s House Health and Insurance Committee passed a bill on an 8-3 vote to limit facility fees.

House Bill 1215 would make facility fees more transparent by mandating notification to patients at the time of service. In addition, the bill would ban facility fees for primary care, preventative care and telehealth visits. In a nod to opponents, the newly amended bill would also require a third-party report to study the impact of facility fees on hospitals and consumers.

The aim is to provide data to fact-check discrepancies in claims from hospitals on when, why, and how facility fees are charged.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Emily Sirota (D-Denver), Rep. Andrew Boesenecker (D-Fort Collins), Sen. Kyle Mullica (D-Thorton), and Sen. Lisa Cutter (D-Littleton) and follows numerous reports by the Problem Solvers in the past year about questionable medical bills.

Facility fees are charges imposed on patients that are increasingly levied by large hospital systems that own freestanding clinics and providers.

“Patients all across Colorado are getting hit with unexpected fees up to and sometimes over a thousand dollars with no clear explanation and no recourse after they’ve already paid for medical services, and these fees often aren’t covered by insurance,” Sirota said.

“House Bill 1215 will make hospital billing more transparent and save Coloradans money on health care. Thank you to my colleagues in the House for supporting this critical bill,” Sirota said.

“These unexplained charges are a major barrier to affordable health care that can drain a family’s bank account, and Coloradans are being forced to pay these fees more and more often as large hospital systems merge and buy up clinics across our state,” Boesenecker said. 

“By passing House Bill 1215, we are standing up for patients by demanding lower costs and more transparency,” Boesenecker said. 

Opposition to bill limiting, banning facility fees

But critics of the measure, said facility fees are needed to keep hospitals afloat and help pay for all the staff and infrastructure at both hospitals and off-site clinics.

“If they were to go away their institutions would be underwater,” John Dean, dean of the Colorado School of Medicine, said.

He was one of a dozen health care providers to testify against the measure, which would exempt Denver Health and some 30 mostly rural hospitals, that serve a large percentage of the uninsured.

Julie Lonborg with the Colorado Hospital Association told the Problem Solvers the measure could cost hospitals across the state billions in revenue and could put the viability of some clinics at risk.

“This has the potential to have devastating catastrophic consequences to the patient care system in Colorado,” Lonborg said.

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