By Rafi Chowdury [via The Center Square] –
Americans are feeling the impact of higher prices everyday – from basic necessities like groceries and gas, to back-to-school clothes and trips to visit family.
Unfortunately, health care is not excluded from this list. All too often, families are being forced to make difficult financial decisions, between affording basic needs or attending a doctor’s appointment. People should never have to forgo health care visits or treatment due to cost. But unfortunately, a range of factors keep health care costs high, straining both Tennessee families and small businesses.
Corporate hospital buyouts are one driver of soaring health care costs. Increasingly, doctors’ offices, labs, and other private facilities are being caught up in this trend, and once these large buyers acquire a private practice, they can charge marked-up prices for services offered at the new facility.
What’s worse: many patients are not aware of these price hikes until they receive their bill.
Unfair pricing that is tied to big hospital corporations is causing financial stress on families across the country. We need laws in place to address this issue. Until then, health care remains expensive for Americans while hospitals charge higher prices at new outpatient facilities.
Small business owners like me are affected in critical ways. My personal health coverage suffers due to higher out-of-pocket costs. In addition, as the monthly finances of my small business fluctuate with good months and more difficult months, any unexpected hike in medical costs means difficult financial strain.
Unfair hospital billing practices also affect my ability to provide health coverage to my employees. If we keep on the path of skyrocketing health care costs – exacerbated by issues like unfair medical billing – providing an adequate health plan for my employees will become out of reach.
Living in Memphis, I can see the diverse health care challenges that are pervasive in my own community. Unfortunately, Tennessee falls below many public health benchmarks, as we rank 6th among all U.S. states in those killed by heart disease, and over 12% of our adult population suffers from diabetes. Exacerbating this issue is the concerning reality that in my hometown of Memphis, the poverty rate is over 22%, and the child poverty rate is nearly 33%.
I see a troubling picture of public health in many Tennessee communities, one that strains far too many people and is simply too expensive for those trying to make ends meet. That’s why any effort to bring down health care costs, like ensuring fairer medical billing, must be addressed with urgency by our federal leaders.
Moving forward, we need a better process for hospital medical billing that ensures increased transparency. Right now, there is a bill that has been introduced in the Senate that would implement fair billing practices at a national level. The Site-based Invoicing and Transparency Enhancement Act (SITE) would help ensure that consumers are receiving important health care – and not paying massive hospital markups.
It is critical that this bill be brought to the floor for a vote and our federal leaders must take action to move this priority forward. This issue cannot continue to sit without debate. Without action on fair medical billing, health care costs will continue to rise, and more Americans’ health coverage will be negatively impacted. We need our leaders in Tennessee like Senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty to work with their colleagues to pass reasonable solutions like the SITE Act.
There have been so many unkept promises for more affordable health care. I hope this opportunity is different.
About the Author: Rafi Chowdhury is the CEO of a marketing firm in Memphis, Tennessee. He writes about healthcare and other issues that impact small business owners.