DENVER (CBS4) – There was a move to cut out the hidden cost of health care at the state Capitol, and to make sure patients know what they’re paying for. The bill failed but a state senator is still determined to raise awareness of the problem.

When most people go in for a procedure they check to make sure the hospital and doctor are in their network, but what about all the other people who may assist in the care? Many patients aren’t finding out about those out-of-network providers until they get the bill, and in some cases they’re paying the bill when they don’t have to. A Senate committee took up legislation on Wednesday aimed at improving transparency.

When Ben Davis’ daughter became so sick she could hardly breath he did what any parent would — he called an ambulance. A few weeks later he got a bill for nearly $1,300 because it turned out the ambulance service was out of network.

Ben Davis (credit: CBS)

Ben Davis (credit: CBS)

“It’s just a scary time, and it’s not a time where you’re not thinking rationally about whether you’re in network or out,” Davis said.

Davis’ wife fortunately worked in health care advocacy. She knew providers couldn’t bill for out-of-network costs in emergencies. They fought the charge — and won. Davis said if it wasn’t for his wife’s knowledge of that he would have paid the bill.

“I wouldn’t have thought twice,” Davis said.

Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver (credit: CBS)

Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver (credit: CBS)

Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, says most people do pay. But in non-emergencies, they have to pay, which is why she introduced a bill that requires patients be informed if someone taking care of them may be out of network.

“I just wanted Coloradans to have the information they needed to make an informed choice so they could avoid putting themselves at risk for medical bankruptcy,” Aguilar said.

The Colorado Medical Society opposed the bill, saying it would make doctors liable for something they often can’t control.

“It is impossible for physicians to predict who is going to be involved in patient care when a patient goes into facility,” John Conklin with the Colorado Medical Society said.

CBS4's Shaun Boyd interviews John Conklin with the Colorado Medical Society (credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Shaun Boyd interviews John Conklin with the Colorado Medical Society (credit: CBS)

But Davis says he’d still prefer to know.

“The more we can do to inform people about their rights the better,” he said.

The legislation failed in a Senate committee on Wednesday with Democrats voting for it and Republicans against.

Aguilar knew the bill’s fate wasn’t good because it died last year as well. But she remains determined to raise awareness.

The Colorado Medical Society and Colorado Association of Health Plans have worked for months on trying to come up with a compromise, but have not been able to.


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