WOODBRIDGE — Legislation advancing on the federal level would give you a better idea of the charges you may incur for medical procedures or supplies, before you even go to the hospital for treatment.

Unanimous bipartisan support was recorded in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for the PATIENT Act (Promoting Access to Treatments and Increasing Extremely Needed Transparency), which aims to strengthen transparency for both hospitals and insurers.

Under the measure sponsored by U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. 6th District, hospitals would have to make public all standard charges for items and services, and create a consumer-friendly way to display the charges of their 300 most "shoppable" services.

"To me, the PATIENT Act, more than anything else, provides consumers with a right to know," Pallone told a crowd in Colonia. "With the theory being that if you then can compare prices, then that ultimately creates competition and brings the prices down."

The bill, which was introduced in May, also requires insurers to make public their in-network and out-of-network charges for items and services. And pharmacy benefit managers would have to annually provide employers with detailed data related to prescription drug costs.

"Many New Jersey families still struggle with affording health care and life-saving prescription drugs, and patients frequently face significant price discrepancies," said Laura Waddell, health care program director for New Jersey Citizen Action. "Our goal should be to further strengthen transparency and help improve affordability of coverage, and this is an important step in that direction."

Pallone said a deep dive into the issue was prompted by a concerned resident who went from hospital to hospital in Pallone's district and realized that distributing an ice pack can cost $2 in one hospital and $200 in another.

When Pallone asked hospital officials about this price range, they said those prices don't reflect the actual amount a patient pays.

Pallone's proposal also requires physician-owned practices with more than 25 doctors to report information about their mergers and acquisitions to the federal government on an annual basis. This notification requirement would also apply to physician practices owned by hospitals, insurers, and firms.

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