Ohio lawmakers push for price transparency law

A bill that apparently is enjoying bipartisan support among Ohio lawmakers would mandate that consumers receive close estimates of how much they would have to pay as part of a hospital visit.

The Columbus Dispatch reported that the bill, if signed into law, would require a good-faith and reasonable estimate of the procedure's total cost; how much of that cost would be covered by insurance and what the patient's out-of-pocket cost would be. 

"Healthcare costs have become an ever-increasing percentage of the state budget," state Rep. Robert Sprague, a Republican, told the Dispatch. "We've over and over again tried to contain our costs by using bureaucratic rules, but we also want to use the power of the free market."

Other officials told the Dispatch that the increasing prevalence of high-deductible health plans made such transparency critical. Moreover, even though the state has required that hospitals post their retail prices for public view, the Ohio Hospital Compare website has not been updated for several years. The most recent data available was from 2010, uploaded in 2012, according to the site. The price data, like many other state-level hospital websites, contains a range of charges for several procedures and not specific prices.

Price transparency among providers remains a lingering issue in the United States. The vast majority of states have received a failing grade for healthcare price transparency, according to a 2014 report from Catalyst for Payment Reform. Some states, including Massachusetts, Washington and Idaho, have passed or have been mulling price transparency laws in recent years.

Even the Ohio Hospital Association admits the difficulty of obtaining pricing information from its own members, when it acknowledged last year that a secret shopper program it conducted had mixed results.

To learn more:
- read The Columbus Dispatch article (subscription may be required)
- check out the Ohio Hospital Compare website