RALEIGH, N.C. (WJZY) — North Carolina hospital operators are being called on the carpet, accused of marking up prices and lacking transparency.
“I think the contracts would prove that they’re being compensated on profits, not patients,” said State Treasurer Dale Folwell.
The new report from Folwell accuses hospitals of huge markups and extreme price variations for services.
Folwell says they are not transparent on pricing with patients.
“Three people can walk into the same facility and get the exact same service or benefit or product and possibly charged be charged three wildly different prices for it,” Folwell explained.
Folwell is also a Republican candidate for governor in 2024. He’s pushing for the full passage of his Medical Debt De-Weaponization Act, seeking to require large providers to post their price information.
The report profiles a 1,120 percent markup from Medicare for a urinalysis test. It also lists $290 cost to Medicare for an MRI of a leg joint ($288.90). That’s 10 times more expensive at another higher-priced facility ($3,132.68).
The treasurer says this happened as the state’s hospitals sued roughly 7,500 patients over a five-year period to collect medical debts.
Leaders of the North Carolina Healthcare Association are firing back, saying Folwell’s claims of the lack of transparency have been thoroughly debunked. They cite an article noting 70 percent of the state’s hospitals met compliance regulations.
They do note that there is always progress to be made, however, on the transparency front.
“Over time, we are learning what information is most helpful to consumers and are working with patients, physicians, insurers and government entities to develop ways to better educate and support patients who are making healthcare decisions.”
Industry advocates take issue with the pricing comparison to Medicare, which they say only reimburses hospitals 84 cents on the dollar, and that Folwell’s claims paints a “distorted picture” of the cost of care.
“The report falsely accuses hospitals of overcharging private insurers compared to Medicare’s reimbursement rates, ignoring the fact that hospitals receive just 84 cents for every dollar they spend on Medicare patients,” the statement said.
“I mean, the fact is that the North Carolina Hospital Association, their multimillion-dollar lobbyists, are going to be on the wrong side of history in terms of doing what’s in the best interests of our citizens,” Folwell said.
The NCHA stated the average hospital operating margin is 1.3 percent, emphasizing their commitment to serving patients.