Controversial amendment changed in medical billing legislation

Health care providers are breathing a sigh of relief after a controversial amendment was amended out by the Indiana Senate on Monday.

Posted: Mar 2, 2020 6:20 PM
Updated: Mar 2, 2020 6:39 PM

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WLFI) - Health care providers are breathing a sigh of relief after a controversial amendment was amended out by the Indiana Senate on Monday.

Dozens of health care professionals from across the state came to the statehouse to protest House Bill 1004. The previous version would have reduced payment from insurance companies to off-site hospital facilities for procedures. The original purpose of the bill, which remains intact, was to make medical billing more transparent.

Dr. Jim Bien from IU Health Arnett was one of the hospital workers who attended. He explained that hospitals and their off-site centers offer complex and necessary treatments that are expensive.

"The way this bill was amended will reduce the way those services are paid for," he said.

He said procedures and treatments done at hospitals are more expensive because large hospitals have more costs. He said they operate 24/7 and off all types of medical services needed by patients, so a chest x-ray done at a hospital will naturally be more expensive than if someone got it done at a doctor's office.

He said services that happen at a hospital are negotiated at a higher rate by insurance companies and Medicare, and the off-site facilities that are operated under large hospital umbrellas have the same set contracts.

"They meet the regulatory requirements of the hospital, they meet the staffing requirements, the investment and the infrastructure and importantly they are close to where our patients are," he said.

State Representative Chris Campbell and State Senator Eddie Melton from Gary were among the legislators who were against the amendment.

"We have to be very mindful that this could have a devastating impact on rural and urban hospitals," said Melton.

Dr. Bien said places like the IU Health Arnett Cancer Center would have been impacted by this amendment. It would have made it too expensive for the center to provide necessary procedures, most likely forcing it to shut down.

"This has a direct impact on access to essential services for patients and their ability to continue to provide them," he said.

The controversial amendment was amended out by State Senator Ed Charbonneau. His new amendment passed successfully with a voice vote. If the original author of the bill agrees to the new language, it will go to the governor's desk for his signature. If the author does not agree, it will go to conference committee.

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