Rural hospitals in Texas could find it easier to consolidate with facilities in neighboring communities and patients socked with surprisingly high bills will get assistance from state regulators under two pieces of legislation signed by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) June 14.

The law that covers hospital merger agreements, H.B. 3301, establishes a process by which hospitals in certain rural Texas counties can obtain state approval for transactions shown to be in the public interest.

The measure is an effort to...