|Rep. Dan B. Frankel
23rd Legislative District
Frankel, Christiana introduce legislation to protect health care access and choice
HARRISBURG, Oct. 2 – In a bipartisan effort to address issues that have arisen with provider consolidation in western Pennsylvania and across the commonwealth, state Reps. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, and Jim Christiana, R-Beaver, today introduced a two-bill legislative package aimed at protecting patient access and choice in the health care marketplace.
"With today’s rapidly changing health care marketplace, we must find ways to prevent hospitals and doctors from denying patients access to quality health care based on the insurance card in their wallets," Christiana said. "This legislation will go a long way in eliminating the ‘culture of fear’ consumers have developed when health care giants discuss operational changes."
House Bills 1621 and 1622, known as the Assuring Patient Access and Consumer Choice Act, seek to curtail market power gained through provider consolidation by preventing consumers from being denied access based on insurance coverage and eliminating the ability of any dominant hospital or related physician practice from demanding unreasonable rates for health care services.
"Pennsylvanians deserve to pay their health care providers based on the quality of care, not the size of the hospital," Frankel said. "When hospital executives can use dominance in the marketplace to require that their physicians and health care professionals refuse to even see patients with what they consider the ‘wrong insurance card,’ we’ve got a problem."
Specifically, the measures would require all hospitals and hospital-owned physician practices that are part of an integrated delivery network to contract with any willing insurer. It would prohibit dominant hospitals and physician-related practices from entering into contractual agreements which would impede the availability of health care services and limit access to any health care facility.
"Hospitals across Pennsylvania – and the country – have begun to consolidate into large systems. These systems can bring great benefits, such as better coordinated care, but without checks and balances in place, we can end up with systems that cost much more, without much better service. This legislation will help solve that problem, by ensuring that no matter how big a system is, it still must compete," Frankel said.
Paula Stellabotte, a registered nurse at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Altoona, shared her concerns at the news conference:
"Our not-for-profit hospitals are community assets. Taxpayers built them, taxpayers subsidize them, and taxpayers should have to have access to them. If the executives who run these institutions are allowed to pick and choose what patients they see, we are permitting our system to fail us," Stellabotte explained.
Additionally, the legislation would prevent hospitals from locking physicians into non-compete clauses, which force physicians to leave the area if they want to practice medicine after leaving a hospital system.
"Pennsylvania is blessed with some of the best health care networks in the country," Christiana said. "To think that insured residents would not have access to those resources is unacceptable. These bills provide a simple and long-term solution to an issue that is already occurring in western Pennsylvania and one that could inevitably occur in any region of the state."