No More Surprise Hospital Bills: New Transparency Law Empowers Virginians

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

By Carolyn Fiddler
July 20, 2023

A new Virginia law seeks to arm residents of the commonwealth with the information they need to better plan for hospital care and expenses.

Despite the fact that hospitals have been federally required to post their pricing information online since Jan. 1, 2021, many hospitals in Virginia were not following this rule. A new Virginia law aims to change that.

As of July 1, all Virginia hospitals are required to make their pricing information publicly available online, which will help folks plan and obtain medical care without having to worry about unknown costs.

This new Hospital Price Transparency Law is the result of legislation introduced by northern Virginia Del. Dan Helmer last year after hearing from patients and patients rights groups that many of the state’s hospitals were ignoring the federal rule regarding price posting. The measure received bipartisan, near-unanimous support from Virginia’s lawmakers.

“We hear from patients all over Virginia who delay care or don’t get the care they need because they don’t understand what it will cost them,” Helmer said. “And the results can be devastating.”

Nearly four in 10 Americans postponed care for themselves or for a family member in 2022 due to cost, according to a January Gallup poll – a record high for the 22 years since Gallup began measuring this statistic.

“I think, for people who work hard for their money every single day and just want to know that when they get sick that they’re still going to be able to take care of themselves and their family, this is a critical issue and one that … Virginia needs to be a leader on,” Helmer added.

Newport News primary care physician Dr. James Tinsley says that many patients choose to forego hospital care because of high or unknown medical costs.

“You wouldn’t go in to a restaurant, sit down and order off a menu and not see the prices and then get the bill six months later,” Tinsley said.

Cynthia Fisher, founder and chair of PatientRightsAdvocate.com, said that the new law is “transformative” for those in need of care.

“This shifts the power to the patients,” Fisher said. “When we can see prices, for the first time, we can protect ourselves from the egregious price-gouged overcharges.

“So many people in Virginia have been harmed and financially ruined by our healthcare systems, both hospitals and insurance companies who have taken them to court and put them in absolute financial ruin,” she added.

  • Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler is Dogwood's chief political correspondent. She is also the nation’s foremost expert in state politics with almost two decades of experience in statehouse machinations, and her comic book collection is probably bigger than yours.

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