Governor Pat McCrory signed a major consumer protection bill into law today. House Bill 834 requires hospitals to provide public pricing information on 140 medical procedures and services. The new law also prevents hospitals, in certain situations, from putting liens on a patient's residence in order to collect on unpaid medical bills.
"For too long, North Carolina patients have been in the dark on what they can expect to pay for common medical procedures when they are admitted to a hospital, "Governor McCrory said. "This new law gives patients and their doctors pricing information so they can make an informed financial decision with regard to their health care."
Hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers will now submit to the Department of Health and Human Services, pricing on 100 common in-patient services, 20 common surgical procedures and 20 common imaging procedures. DHHS will publish that information on its website.
Earlier this year, the federal government published a database surveying the cost of 100 common hospital procedures and services across the nation. The News and Observer of Raleigh looked at hospital pricing in North Carolina and found that in 75 percent of the services it examined, the highest price was triple or more compared to the lowest price for the same procedure. For example, the price for implanting a pacemaker in North Carolina ranged from $22,000 to $75,000 according to the federal 2011 database.
The new law also requires hospitals to submit their charity policy to DHHS and it will publish those policies on its website.
In addition to not allowing hospitals to file a lien on a patient's home, state owned hospitals at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and East Carolina University will no longer be able to garnish a patient's wages to settle an unpaid debt.
The General Assembly also used HB 834 to modernize the State Personnel Act, a law that hasn't been significantly updated for decades. The modernization empowers managers to use mediation and other methods to resolve employee grievances on the front end. Today, the existing grievance process averages 450 days to reach a conclusion. One case took more than 1,000 days to reach a settlement.
"This is a good first step in initiating performance management and employee evaluation for all state workers," said Governor Pat McCrory. "The State Personnel Act promotes efficiency in state government and streamlines a wasteful grievance process that has averaged more than 450 days."
The new law also adds 500 exempt positions. That will provide cabinet secretaries flexibility and accountability to implement business and organizational needs while reducing bureaucracy and internal red tape.
Modernizing the State Personnel Act was one of Governor McCrory's major goals he outlined in February during his State of the State address to the people of North Carolina.