Whiling away the time in Rhode Island
Hospitals and providers have always had problems collecting co-payments from patients for hospital admissions, emergency department evaluations and office visits. This has gotten worse as high deductable policies have become more popular. It has apparently led to some solvency problems that some lawmakers feel can be solved by putting the health plans in charge of collections.
Obviously, this bill has its advocates in the hospital associations and its detractors in the insurance industry. Given the superior strength of the latter, I estimate the probability of passage at somewhere around 0.0% (it's my risk averse nature that prevents me from adding a few more significant digits).
But seriously, what business is it of the government? If there's a conflict here, can't the hospitals, providers and insurance companies deal with it themselves? Do Rhode Islanders really need yet another layer of bureaucracy to manage and pay for?
Don't get me wrong. I'm no fan of insurance companies and as a physician, I can surely identify a self-interest when I see one but I can't see an overriding government concern here. There are no issues of patient safety. Tax dollars are not at stake. Patients certainly don't care.
As politically appealing as such a plan might be, I have to side with UnitedHealthcare of New England CEO Stephen J. Farrell who states that
"Collection of co-pays and deductibles is 'standard practice for every hospital' nationwide, and because those items aren’t part of a member’s covered benefits, it would be 'inappropriate' for an insurer to have to collect them."Democratic representative Steven Costantino outlines his agenda: The measure is "an idealistic kind of bill," introduced not with the expectation of passage, but to "at least start a discussion about the difficulty hospitals are having in collecting co-pays."
Aside from providing work for some insurance company lobbyists, it's hard to imagine what will be accomplished here.
I have to assume that RI has some politicians with too much time on their hands.