House Legislation: Make Prices Public
Comprehensive pricing transparency may also be required on a state level. On Sept. 13, 2006, Representative Michael Burgess (R-Texas) introduced the Health Care Price Transparency Act of 2006 in the House. This American Hospital Association (AHA)-supported legislation would require states to publicly report hospital charges for specific inpatient and outpatient services and would require insurers to give patients, on request, an estimate of their expected out-of-pocket expenses.
—Eric Siegal, MD
The bill would also require the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to study what type of healthcare price information consumers would find useful and how that information could be made available in a timely, understandable form.
Thirty-two states already require hospitals to report pricing information, and six more are voluntarily doing so, but this legislation would likely change the information that hospitals and other providers are gathering and providing.
At press time, the legislation had been referred to the House Subcommittee on Health.
How Transparency Will Roll Out
While the House legislation is in limbo, the executive order will have an immediate effect on healthcare, starting this year. The quality measures to be included in reporting will be developed from private and government sources, including local providers, employers, and health plans and insurers.
After the data are gathered and the information technology (IT) infrastructure is set up, consumers will be able to access specific information on pricing and quality of services performed by doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers. This information may be available through a variety of sources, including insurance companies, employers, and Medicare-sponsored Web sites.
One of the keys to success will be in the collaboration among the agencies involved. “There’s a keen understanding among the major players that if everyone does their own thing, we’ll have chaos,” says Dr. Siegal. “There has to be a significant degree of harmonization [among] physician measures, hospital measures, inpatient measures, and outpatient measures.”