Idaho lawmakers push for hospital price transparency

Idaho lawmakers, fearing their state is falling behind in terms of healthcare price transparency and quality reporting, are now pushing a bill that would require hospitals to post procedure prices and costs, the Idaho Statesman reported.

Two bills are under debate in the statehouse. The first would require the state to build both a website and mobile application that would permit consumer access to the prices for the 50 most common procedures at Idaho's hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers. Providers would also have to provide more detailed information regarding estimated charges for patients prior to their admission for a procedure or treatment.

"The relationship between buyer and seller in the marketplace is so tipped to the seller it's not even funny," the bill's sponsor, state Rep. Brandon Hixon (R), told the Statesman. "If a consumer can jump on the website" to see prices at a hospital outside of his or her community, "I'm quite sure they would make that drive to save $3,000 out of their pocket," he said.

Another bill, introduced this month, would "investigate the creation of" two databases, one for insurance claims (including Medicaid) and one for information on hospital performances and similar quality and safety-related data, according to the article.

Price transparency regarding hospital care is only slowly becoming a reality. Last month, South Carolina established a website that posted the prices at 60 of its hospitals. And Massachusetts is also rolling out price transparency initiatives. Last fall, insurers were required to provide patients with cost estimates for physician office visits. This year, they must also provide cost estimates for hospital visits.

Although the Idaho Hospital Association did not specifically voice its opposition to the bills, it suggested they would provide no more than the generic average of charges at a particular facility, according to the Statesman.

"Right now, it's really much easier to pick up the phone and call your insurance company," Toni Lawson, the Idaho Hospital Association's vice president of government relations, told the Statesman. She added that putting up a feasible website and mobile phone application would not be cost-effective.

To learn more:
- read the Idaho Statesman article