American hospitals are entering a new era of scrutiny.
Today, four separate House committees are holding hearings focused on hospital practices and the impact bad actors have on increased costs for patients and employers alike. Once unthinkable, these hospital practices are now squarely in Congress’ focus, with patients and policymakers increasingly opening their eyes to the fact that hospital spending is the dominant driver of the healthcare affordability crisis in America today.
Better Solutions for Healthcare (BSFH) is a national coalition of employer and healthcare groups fighting to bring accountability for the anti-competitive actions of certain hospitals and health systems. The coalition is shining a light on egregious hospital practices that drive up costs for patients and employers—including hospital monopolies, the lack of price transparency, excessive price markups, and dishonest billing practices.
In advance of the hearings, BSFH sent a letter to the four committees. It reads, in part:
“As Congress works to solve America’s healthcare affordability crisis, we applaud your focus on the role that hospitals and large health systems play in driving up healthcare costs for consumers, employers, and the government. A lack of market competition, pricing transparency, and price mark-ups have resulted in a system of waste, fraud, and artificially inflated prices.”
These are the very type of issues that will be explored at four hearings today:
- The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee’s hearing is called “Lowering Unaffordable Costs: Legislative Solutions to Increase Transparency and Competition in Health Care.”
- This hearing will expose how American hospitals are failing to comply with price transparency requirements as well as focus on hospital consolidation, which is contributing to anti-competitive practices that push up prices for health services. As part of the hearing, the subcommittee will review 17 pieces of legislation – many of which aim to lower costs for patients, employers and the federal government.
- The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight will explore “Tax-Exempt Hospitals and the Community Benefit Standard.”
- This hearing will scrutinize hospitals’ tax-exempt status and the community benefit standard which grants hospitals that are organized as nonprofits favorable tax benefits.
- The House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing titled “Reducing Health Care Costs for Working Americans and Their Families.”
- The Committee has indicated the hearing will also focus on the impact of hospital consolidation as well as dishonest billing. This BSFH priority issue stems from hospitals and health systems gaming the system to charge patients and employers more based on the setting of care.
- And the House Appropriations Committee is conducting an oversight hearing on the “Provider Relief Fund and Healthcare Workforce Shortages.”
- While certain hospitals continue to publicly say they are in tough financial situations, some hospital systems received billions of dollars in Provider Relief Fund money, with some using federal support for capital projects.
Today marks the beginning of what we expect to be a sustained focus on hospital actions by this Congress. We cannot solve the affordability crisis without reining in the practices of hospitals and health systems that are hurting American families and making it harder to provide affordable health coverage. As legislative action heats up, Better Solutions for Healthcare will continue to elevate these challenges and help guide the way for action to bring down costs.