Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle, wants to force hospitals to give discounts to low- and middle-income people who have no health insurance.
"Most people aren't even aware that hospitals typically charge uninsured patients two to three times the actual cost of delivering services, then turn around and give bargain rates to insurance companies for exactly the same services," said Cody, who chairs the House health care committee.
On a largely party-line vote, the House approved her House Bill 2574. It would apply to patients earning up to four times the federal poverty level, or $80,000 a year for a family of four. Under the bill, families with the lowest incomes would get the highest discounts.
She said her bill is aimed at preventing bankruptcies caused by medical debts -- which means that hospitals are also more likely to get paid back, albeit at the lower rates.
"Presenting uninsured patients with enormous bills they can't possibly afford only results in bad debt," said Cody.