Get the Daily News Digest in your inbox each morning. Sign Up

Rafferty: Corporate hospitals acquiring physician practices increases health care costs

By Neil Rafferty

We live in a time when extraordinary medical advancements are happening constantly. From greater
access to vaccines, to cutting-edge research on treating and curing illnesses and diseases – the evolution
of public health and patient care is something to behold.

Of course, we can acknowledge the breadth of medical advancement in our country while also recognizing the urgent need for solutions to bring health care costs down. One area that federal lawmakers can make an impact on is fair and transparent billing – something that we all tend to expect. But unfortunately, unbeknownst to many patients, this is one of
the many obstacles that exacerbate health care costs.

“Health care costs are out of control” – it seems like we hear this every day from lawmakers, patients,
and health care professionals alike. As a member of Alabama’s House Health Committee, I am certain
my colleagues and I have uttered this phrase more than our fair share of times. There is a web of factors
that play into high health care costs.

But one issue that often flies under the radar is how patients are billed for services. The issue is that hospitals and corporate entities are quickly acquiring many independent physician practices, owning nearly 70 percent in 2021, and charging patients more money for the same services they would receive in that private office before it was purchased. This needlessly increases health care costs for Alabamians.

We can – and need – to change this.

As hospitals have absorbed more physician practices, patients are being charged an average of 14%
more for services delivered. Families and patients in Alabama deserve better. They deserve relief from
unfair medical billing that problematically fluctuates depending on the site of treatment. Between
Alabama’s disproportionately high number of counties below the poverty line and pervasive chronic
health conditions in many communities, people simply cannot afford to see their bottom line go up for
something as essential as health care, especially preventative primary care.

There are two pieces of legislation in front of Congress right now that are excellent roadmaps to solve
this issue. The Facilitating Accountability in Reimbursements (FAIR) Act in the House and the Site-based

Invoicing and Transparency Enhancement (SITE) Act in the Senate will ensure fair billing practices and
bring costs down more for consumers. I urge leaders like Representative Terri Sewell (D-07) to use their
voices in Washington to advocate for this legislation and ensure we make headway on this issue.

Regardless of political party or district makeup, a resounding concern that my colleagues and I in the
State House hear is the need to bring health care costs down. This sentiment is reflected nationally, as
Americans consider the cost of health care their top concern today.

We cannot wait to enact these critical reforms for the American people. If we implement site-neutral
reforms now, we can reduce national health costs by $458 billion and lower Medicare spending by over
$150 billion. Congress must prioritize this issue to create a stronger foundation of public health in
American communities. Everyone deserves affordable health care – let us start bringing these costs back
under control through commonsense initiatives like fair billing.

Rafferty serves in the Alabama State Legislature.

Get the Daily News Digest in your inbox each morning.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Web Development By Infomedia