The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by WisOpinion.com.

Families across the country, and right here in Wisconsin, are often faced with sky-high medical costs. Hospital care is now the single largest component of all healthcare costs, and 6-out-of-10 Americans have skipped or postponed medical care due to high costs. The increasing cost of hospital care has taken a toll on people across the nation, with many left unable to pay their hospital bills on time. Support for Senate Bill 1869, the Site-Based Invoicing and Transparency Enhancement (SITE) Act, will be critical in saving money and ending “dishonest billing” practices from corporate-owned hospitals.

Corporate-owned hospitals are exploding across the country. In 2021, for the first time in history, the majority of physicians were employed by hospitals. These hospitals often charge the same fees at local, off-campus locations for outpatient services as if they were provided at the main hospital campus. This is a problem, because under Medicare and commercial insurance, health systems face no requirements to bill using unique identifiers for their off-campus locations. In many cases, it is nearly impossible for payers and consumers to track the exact location of where services were provided.

More transparency is needed when it comes to billing practices at hospitals and their locations. For example, when a corporate hospital system buys an independent physician practice, patients are often charged for services in that office as if they were done in a hospital setting. Not only is this practice dishonest, but it could cost a patient upwards of 300% more! The SITE Act would prohibit “dishonest billing,” target these off-campus fees, and ensure Medicare reimburses care fairly for off-campus services, regardless of who owns the provider.

Savings from the SITE Act would also be invested into a national nurse training program. Our hospitals are already facing staffing shortages, and hundreds of thousands of new nurses will be needed over the next decade as our population continues to age. The national nurse training program will support a network of partnerships between hospitals, training sites, and nursing schools; create a graduate nursing education program to provide payments for qualified training costs; and is estimated to help create 20,000 nurse training positions per year over six years.

The United States spends more per person on healthcare than any country in the world but doesn’t receive the highest quality care. While support of the SITE Act won’t change the healthcare system overnight, passage of this bill will begin an important step forward in bringing more transparency and much needed reform to the healthcare system. This bill would help ensure honest billing practices by hospitals.

-Collins is a former elected official and longtime activist from the City of Greenfield.

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