Las Vegas Sun

September 21, 2014

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Hospital issues split lawmakers

Assembly Bill 342 would require hospitals to file five new reports with the state, including:

Most hospitals argue that much of their revenue goes to building new facilitie' for the expanding population. This report would require hospitals to detail t' eir planned capital projects that already have a financial commitment.

Out-of-state corporations control about 80 percent of beds in Southern Nevada. This report would require corporations to detail how much profit they are taking in from Nevada hospitals.

Most hospitals already give back to the community through indigent care or health care programs. This report would detail those contributions.

Nevada currently requires that hospitals give uninsured patients a 30 percent discount on hospital costs. One bill sought to increase that to 50 percent, but the compromise simply asks hospitals to detail their policies on charging the uninsured.

Would require hospitals to detail their debt collection methods, including wha' kind of payment arrangements they allow and when they hand bills over to coll' ction agencies.

CARSON CITY -- Democrats have worked out a compromise bill over several measures aimed to reduce hospital costs in Nevada, which are among the highest in the nation.

The Assembly cleared the measures last month, but the issue is the only one so far this session to consistently split the chamber down party lines.

And their future in the Republican-controlled Senate remained unclear.

Some Republican leaders -- and hospital groups themselves -- accused Democrats of picking on the hospital industry, which they said makes less than 4 percent profit and is burdened with the costs of building new facilities for an ever-growing and demanding population in Southern Nevada.

But the compromise bill presented Monday to the Senate Human Resources and Education Committee will throw sunshine on the hospital industry without adding serious new burdens, said Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, who has shepherded the bills.

Assembly Bill 342 requires hospitals to file five new reports with the state, which would then analyze them through a legislative health care committee.

Hospitals would also be required to file reports that would detail what various procedures cost and would have those reports on their premises for both patients and state officials to inspect.

The Nevada Hospital Association signed on to Assembly Bill 342, saying they hope the Legislature will gather information on hospital costs over the coming years and have a serious conversation in the 2007 session about why Nevada's health care costs are so high.

"The bill's real directive is to us," Leslie said. "It asks us to do something that is long overdue. It asks us to be developing a comprehensive plan for health care services in our state."

Leslie, and several other top Assembly Democrats, argue that corporate hospitals in Nevada largely operate without having to report what they charge for certain procedures, how much profit they make or even how they collect debts.

Medical costs are now the number one cause of personal bankruptcy, several people told the committee.

And about 80 percent of beds in Southern Nevada are controlled by out-of-state companies whose financial reports don't necessarily detail how much money they're taking in, said Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson.

"We need to understand why this is happening, but currently the information we need is either unavailable or difficult to decipher," Perkins said.

Jim Wadhams, the lobbyist for the Nevada Hospital Association, said hospitals already collect much of this information. The compromise bill, he said, will help point out that Nevada's hospitals make a low-profit because they are expanding and operating in a state with the fourth-worst insurance rate in the nation.

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