New rules would 'protect the rights of patients in terms of affordability and access,' says sponsor.
This story originally appeared in California Healthfax.
A new bill would abolish what it calls "anti-competitive" practices among large health systems in the state by creating new rules for how health systems contract with health plans.
Senate Bill 538, authored by Bill Monning (D-Carmel), would prohibit health systems from requiring health plans to include all of a health system's hospitals in a contract.
"SB 538 will help address the issue of pricing fairness and access to affordable healthcare in the state as well as help ensure California consumers are not subjected to unfair business practices that increase healthcare costs," said Monning.
The goal is to "protect the rights of patients in terms of affordability and access in an ever-changing marketplace," he added.
As written, SB 538 would also prohibit health systems and health plans from setting payment rates for affiliates of hospitals not included in an agreement.
Currently, large providers can "tie inflated prices in certain regions to their entire network of hospitals, even in more price-competitive regions," Monning said.
The bill would also prohibit health systems from requiring health plans to provide coverage to enrollees at the same level of copayment or deductible at all affiliate hospitals.
In addition, it would ban health systems from requiring health plans to submit to binding arbitration for antitrust claims.
Monning pointed to a 2016 study from the University of Southern California that estimates healthcare costs have grown faster at the state's two largest health systems—Dignity Health and Sutter Health—than at hospitals in the rest of the state.
Between 2003 and 2014, prices increased an average of 114% at Dignity Health and Sutter Health hospitals compared to a 70% increase at all other hospitals in California, the study estimated.