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Advocate: Indiana hospital pricing measure could cut bills by half

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Hospitals on Thursday warned an Indiana hospital pricing measure could potentially force some to cut services.

Negotiations began late Thursday afternoon on a measure that would forbid hospitals from charging additional hospital fees at doctors’ offices and clinics that are affiliated with them but are not physically a part of their main hospital facility. The measure would only apply to hospitals that reported at least $2 billion in net patient service revenue in 2021. That category includes Ascension, Community Health, Franciscan Health and IU Health.

The bill is the centerpiece of a Republican effort to crack down on health care costs. A study last year by the RAND Corp. found Indiana had the sixth-highest cost for outpatient hospital care in the country.

Gloria Sachdev, president and chief executive officer of Employers’ Forum of Indiana, has been one of the leading advocates for the health care bill. She said eliminating the extra fees could cut typical doctors’ bills from 30% to 50%.

“Many of us have seen that, where we get two separate bills,” she said, “and that’s really not fair. Those aren’t hospitals, they’re not open 24/7, and we shouldn’t be paying hospital facility fees for that.”

Brian Tabor, president of Indiana Hospital Association, said the legislation unfairly targets a small group of hospitals. He said lawmakers have done nothing to address the state’s Medicaid reimbursement rates, which he said haven’t changed in 30 years and are among the lowest nationally, nor have they gone after pharmaceutical companies for high drug costs. Tabor said if the legislation becomes law, depending on the impact to hospital fees, it could force some chains to cut back on services.

“We want to be at the table and have conversations about how we can reduce costs and achieve affordability,” he said, “but we need to make sure that insurance companies are paying our doctors fairly, which doesn’t happen today.”

The legislation has passed both chambers by wide margins. Once a legislative conference committee finishes working out the differences between the versions each chamber passed, the House and Senate will still have to hold final up-or-down votes. Lawmakers have until the end of next week to send legislation to the governor’s desk.