North Carolina pushes price transparency

'For too long, North Carolina patients have been in the dark on what they can expect to pay'

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ website will soon be publishing the prices of the 140 most common in-patient, surgical and imaging services performed by every hospital in the state.

Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican who’s focused on regulatory streamlining and healthcare cost reduction, signed into law House Bill 834 in late August, requiring hospitals to submit pricing information on the services, among other changes.

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“For too long, North Carolina patients have been in the dark on what they can expect to pay for common medical procedures when they are admitted to a hospital,” McCrory said in a media release. “This new law gives patients and their doctors pricing information so they can make an informed financial decision with regard to their health care.”  

The information will include payments by Medicare, Medicaid and the five largest private insurers; the website will also outline the hospital’s policies on charity care.

The law was passed and signed towards the end of the legislative session in late August, and includes several other provisions that lawmakers and McCrory billed as needed healthcare consumer reforms.

Hospitals now face limits on putting liens on a patient’s residence to collect unpaid medical bills, and state-owned hospitals at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and East Carolina University are no longer be able to garnish a patient’s wages to collect bills.   

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The law also requires health plans with provider networks to maintain directories for members available online, by phone or in print.

The law also creates a new state position of Chief Deputy Information Office, and requires any hospital with an electronic health record to connect to the North Carolina Health Information Exchange — which an early version of the bill had singled out as the source for posting hospital prices.