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VHHA Polling, Focus Group Research Shows Virginians are Largely Unaware of Laws Protecting Patients from Surprise Medical Bills, Providing Access to Good Faith Estimates, and Promoting Health Care Financial Transparency

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From the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA); this really shows how we can’t assume people are aware of health care law reforms that would benefit them, and why public education is important.

New Consumer-Focused ‘Control Your Care’ Campaign Aims to Educate Virginians About Health Care Law Reforms That Benefit Patients

Polling, Focus Group Research Shows Virginians are Largely Unaware of Laws Protecting Patients from Surprise Medical Bills, Providing Access to Good Faith Estimates, and Promoting Health Care Financial Transparency; Virginia Voters Say They Want More Awareness About Existing Laws; ‘Control Your Care’ Campaign Invests in that Education as a Public Service

RICHMOND, VA – State and federal policymakers, with support from the hospital community, have passed a series of laws protecting patients and families from surprise medical bills, promoting health insurance and hospital price transparency, and enabling people to get good faith price estimates prior to scheduled hospital procedures.

Yet the vast majority of Virginians don’t know these consumer-friendly reforms exist to benefit them, according to statewide polling and focus group research conducted this year by the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA). To address that information gap, VHHA is launching the “Control Your Care” public awareness campaign to ensure patients and families know their rights to help them make informed medical decisions.

“Patients are at the center of everything we do at hospitals. Their well-being is our utmost priority,” said Eric Deaton, Ballad Health Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, who serves as Chair of the VHHA Board of Directors. “We strive to make patients active participants in their care through open dialogue and sharing information. The ‘Control Your Care ’ campaign is a natural extension of that approach and an investment in helping equip Virginians with information they can use in personal health care decision making.”

“The commitment Virginia hospitals make to patients extends beyond providing high quality care, improving public health, and saving lives. It also involves helping people better understand the health care delivery system,” added VHHA President and CEO Sean T. Connaughton. “Just as hospitals have taken a leading role in expanding access to care through funding Medicaid expansion and protecting community health during emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now investing resources to inform Virginians about health care reform laws that benefit patients by launching the ‘ Control Your Care’ campaign.”

The campaign includes a website, ControlYourCare.com,  with easy-to-understand information about consumer-focused health care reforms, links to state and federal laws and descriptions of what the laws do, and other tools to serve the public. This campaign will be supported with statewide digital and broadcast advertising to help raise public awareness about the availability of these resources.

In recent years, the Virginia General Assembly and the U.S. Congress have enacted several patient-focused health care reforms including:

  • law passed in 2016 requiring hospitals to provide a good faith price estimate to patients undergoing an elective procedure or test at a hospital upon request at least three days prior to the service.
  • law passed in 2020 that protects patients from surprise medical bills when they get care from an out-of-network doctor at an in-network facility during emergencies and some non-emergencies. The law established a process between health care providers and health insurers to resolve the billing issue , removing patients from the dispute.
  • federal regulation finalized in 2021 that requires group health plans and health insurance issuers to disclose cost-sharing information to members and to post files online containing all negotiated payment rates.
  • law from 2022 that requires hospitals to post price information about medical items and services online for the public to see and comparison shop if they choose. To serve the public, VHHA has created a searchable listing of links to this price information for hospitals across Virginia.
  • 2002 law that requires hospitals to post information about charity care policies, advise uninsured patients about financial assistance policies and payment plan options, report annually on the amount of charity care and financial assistance provided, and places limits on hospitals’ ability to aggressively collect medical debts.

Although these laws and regulations are on the books, statewide polling of Virginia voters shows the vast majority of people don’t know about them. For instance, poll results show that:

  • 80 percent of people are not aware that Virginia passed a law protecting patients from surprise medical bills for out-of-network emergency care and some non-emergency care.
  • 73 percent of people are not aware that federal and state law requires hospitals to publicly post price information online about standard charges for medical care.
  • 61 percent of people say they have not heard about a law enabling patients to receive a good faith price estimate from hospitals upon request at least three days in advance of a scheduled elective procedure or test.

Despite the existence of these laws and the availability of related consumer resources, polling also shows that 86 percent of Virginia households have not used health care pricing tools such as an online list of prices or an estimator in making health care decisions, 85 percent of Virginians indicate they have not price shopped or compared prices prior to seeking hospital care, 77 percent have not compared prices for doctors or other health care providers prior to seeking care, and 64 percent have not asked for a health care cost estimate from a health insurer or provider prior to receiving medical care.

Participant feedback from focus groups aligns with results from the poll of 800 registered Virginia voters conducted August 16-20, 2023 by Public Opinion Strategies. Additional research conducted in a series of focus groups held in Richmond, Roanoke, and Virginia Beach also showed low awareness of consumer-focused health care reform laws. The majority of focus group participants expressed a desire for more public education on existing laws and said that education, rather than new laws, is what is needed at this time.

While views vary about who among health insurance companies, the government, and health care providers bears responsibility for performing this education, a plurality of voters (47 percent) believe health insurers should be most responsible for helping people better understand their health care costs. Under federal rules, insurers are required to provide cost information to the public. Even so, VHHA and the hospital community are stepping up to invest in this public education effort as a service to Virginia patients and families.

In other poll findings, a plurality of Virginia voters (41 percent) identified out-of-pocket costs like co-pays and deductibles not paid by health insurance as their top concern about health care costs, followed by monthly premium costs (19 percent). A plurality (33 percent) also believes health insurance companies are most responsible for rising health care costs.

Data shows that what Virginians perceive about the role of insurance in increasing health care costs is accurate: A study by the non-partisan Altarum Institute found that from 2008-2021 “single annual premiums have increased 74.3%, and family premiums have increased 78.9%” and the “combined totals of average premiums and deductibles have risen even faster, 89.1% for single coverage and 91.3% for family coverage” in Virginia.

The “Control Your Care” campaign is a continuation of efforts by VHHA and the hospital community to educate and inform the public about the health care delivery system and its role in community health and the economy. Other examples of this work include Virginia hospitals funding the state share of Medicaid expansion costs to extend affordable health coverage to hundreds of thousands of low-income Virginia adults (hospitals provided $573 million to fund the program in 2022), and the publication of tools including the Annual Report on Community Benefit, data tools illustrating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospital price transparency resources and financial assistance policies , the Health Care Workforce Dashboard, the Social Determinants of Health Dashboard , the Behavioral Health Inpatient Data Dashboard, the Patient Experience Data Dashboard , and the Legislative Community Health Dashboards.

About VHHA: The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association is an alliance of 111 hospitals and 26 health delivery systems that develops and advocates for sound health care policy in the Commonwealth. Its mission is to achieve excellence in both health care and health to make Virginia the healthiest state in the nation. Its vision is through collaboration with members and stakeholders, to ensure the sustainability of Virginia’s health care system, transform the delivery of care to promote lower costs and high value across the continuum of care, and to improve health for all Virginians. Connect with VHHA through FacebookX (Twitter)Instagram , TikTokLinkedIn, and YouTube.

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