Bryan Cohen Apr. 25, 2013, 5:12pm

RALEIGH, N.C. (Legal Newsline) -- North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper on Wednesday praised a proposed bill that would help to reduce health care costs for state residents.

Cooper helped to develop Senate Bill 473, which was introduced by state Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, and state Sen. Harry Brown, R-Jones. The proposed law would help consumers to deal with confusing medical bills and collection practices.

After Cooper wrote to Rucho earlier this month, several of his ideas were included in the proposed legislation.

The ideas include giving consumers more time to request an itemized health care bill, requiring that health care bills be written in easy-to-understand language, requiring providers to say whether they are in a patient's insurance network, requiring health care facilities providing refunds for billing errors and overpayments within 60 days, prohibiting hospitals from charging patients for services that would have been covered by an insurance plan if the hospital submitted paperwork on time, and multiple reforms to hospital collection practices.

"While North Carolina alone can't solve the problem of rising health care costs this legislation can restore some fairness for consumers," Cooper said in a statement. "This is a good start toward accomplishing that goal and we look forward to continuing to work with the legislature on it."

Cooper also said health care facilities should be required to give notice of acquisitions and mergers. That requirement is not included in the proposed legislation.

Cooper's additions to the measure were approved Wednesday by the Senate Committee on Health Care. The Senate Finance Committee will be the next committee to hear the bill.

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