North Carolina Department of Justice
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AG Cooper applauds effort to tackle health care costs

Release date: 4/24/2013

Statement from Attorney General Roy Cooper:
“While North Carolina alone can’t solve the problem of rising health care costs this legislation can restore some fairness for consumers. This is a good start toward accomplishing that goal and we look forward to continuing to work with the legislature on it.”

Senate Bill 473, introduced by Senators Bob Rucho and Harry Brown, would help consumers better navigate confusing medical bills and collections practices. Cooper wrote to Senator Rucho earlier this month and met with him last week to offer additional proposals, several of which were added to Senate Bill 473 and approved today by the Senate Committee on Health Care. The bill will next be heard by the Senate Finance Committee.
Among Cooper’s ideas included in the legislation are:
  • Giving consumers more time to request an itemized health care bill.
  • Requiring that health care bills be written in easy-to-understand language.
  • Health care facilities to provide refunds for overpayments and billing errors within 60 days.
  • Prohibiting hospitals for charging patients for services that would have been covered by the insurance had the hospital submitted paperwork on time.
  • Requiring providers to say whether or not they are in a patient’s insurance network. 
  • Reforms to hospital collection practices, including not referring patients to collections while their application for charity care is still pending, giving 30 days’ notice before an account is sent to collections, requiring collection agencies to get a hospital’s approval before taking a patient to court, and barring hospitals from being able to force a patient to sell their home to pay medical bills.

Cooper also believes that health care facilities should be required to give notice of mergers and acquisitions, something not currently included in the legislation. A recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court says that state health care facilities are not immune from antitrust laws. Requiring timely notice of mergers and acquisitions to both the Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Trade Commission would help them to use this enforcement power.

Media contact:  Noelle Talley (919) 716-6484