On June 18, the New Jersey legislature heard testimony on a bill, NJ A2751, that would result in more collusion between hospitals and insurance companies, to the detriment of patients and physicians. This bill, as amended, would encourage hospitals to exclude out-of-network physicians from their medical staffs.
The misleading title of the Healthcare Disclosure and Transparency Act suggests that it is only about “transparency.” In fact, this bill would lead to the fixing of prices that may be paid for all covered services.
This bill denies patients the right to purchase their own medical services, if the treatment is supposed to be “covered” by their plan, but the plan denies payment. Not even the Canadian Supreme Court would allow this much interference with patients’ rights.
This bill would harm uninsured patients, who are routinely gouged by hospitals that cost shift the burdens of underpayments by insurers.
Testifying against this bill, AAPS General Counsel Andrew Schlafly suggested that insurance companies’ fingerprints were on it, especially on provisions that would require an out-of-network health care facility to inform patients about nearby health care facilities that are in-network.
“Would Federal Express be required to tell customers about nearby UPS locations?” Schlafly asked.
By encouraging hospitals to exclude out-of-network physicians, this bill harms independent physicians, whose numbers are already declining. This makes it more difficult for patients to receive a second opinion or a treatment from a physician who is not beholden to the third-party payer.
Schlafly informed legislators of conflicts of interest—at least one hospital CEO is also on the board of directors of an insurance company—and of the lavish salaries that hospital administrators pay themselves from tax-exempt (nonprofit) entities.
AAPS believes that patients should be able to find out the price of medical goods and services, and the amount that insurers pay. But this bill leaves them in the dark about the deals between hospitals and insurers, and increases the control that insurers wield over access to care.
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) is a national organization representing physicians in all specialties, (www.aapsonline.org) which was founded in 1943 to defend the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship.