JEFFERSON CITY — Rep. Steve Helms, R-Springfield, wants you to know how much your health care is going to cost. His bill would require health care providers to share “good faith estimates” of costs before providing services.

“We’ve been conditioned as patients to believe our doctors have their best interests at heart,” he told the House Insurance Policy Committee during a public hearing Wednesday. “If people don’t know how much they’re spending, how do they know if they’re getting a good deal?”

His bill, House Bill 1415, would cap health care provider rates at the rates paid by the government-run Medicare and Medicaid programs, unless certain conditions were met. For example, for-profit providers would be limited to billing the Medicare amount to uninsured or self-pay patients if the provider didn’t first offer an estimate of the price of a health care service that costs more than $500.

There is nothing in federal law or Missouri regulations that requires health care providers to share cost estimates before providing treatment, Helms said.

A fiscal note filed with the bill estimated no cost for state or local governments to implement the change, but estimated the total burden for hospitals to review and post their standard charges for the first year to be about $71 million.

Also Wednesday, Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, presented his bill regarding late payment of insurance reimbursements to health care providers.

As it stands, insurance companies owe a penalty of 1% of the claim per day and interest of 1% per month after an initial 45-day period. This can lead to a penalty of up to 376% annually, Schroer said, which is significantly higher than other states. Arkansas and Kansas, for example, each cap late insurance penalties at about 12% a year.

Schroer’s bill proposes a penalty of 5% and interest of 1% per month. He said he hoped this would cut health care costs for the state.

“This is just one tiny little piece of the puzzle,” he said. “But any logical way we can work to lower health care costs — I think it helps everybody.”

The Insurance Policy Committee recommended House Bill 1693, sponsored by Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston. The bill would establish the Narcotics Control Act, which would create a prescription drug tracking database to help combat the growing opioid epidemic. Similar bills have passed the House in recent years but have fallen short in the Senate over privacy concerns, according to previous Missourian reporting.

Rehder said she was optimistic that this year could be different after the St. Louis County drug monitoring program expanded to 75 jurisdictions, but she said she is wary of compromising too much.

“I’m not OK with a program that doesn’t work,” she said.

  • I'm an assistant city editor. This is my junior year at MU, where I study investigative reporting and political science. Interests include local journalism, breakfast food and good books. Email with any story tips.

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