Is there a dark side to healthcare transparency?

In concentrated markets, providers might look at their competitors' publicly available prices and raise their own accordingly, suggests Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, as an example of unintended consequences that could result from too much healthcare transparency.

The comments came after House Democrats stopped short of promising that a broad price transparency bill would hit the floor this year, reports The Hill. Although the legislation, with 54 Democratic co-sponsors, certainly could move forward, Pallone noted, health plans and others have criticized it as being overly broad, with the potential of resulting in higher prices.

"As we talk about improving price transparency," Pallone said, "I think it makes sense to be cognizant of these concerns."

Two more limited Republican-backed measures, each with two Democratic sponsors, are also on the table. The bill sponsored by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) would require transparency in hospital charges, while that of Energy and Commerce ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas) would cover ambulatory surgical centers where patients aren't hospitalized after their surgeries.

While none of the three bills has a Senate companion, efforts are underway to merge the two bipartisan alternatives, as well as to require quality reports to accompany the price provision, Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), who has co-sponsored both Republican alternatives, told reporters.

To learn more:
- read this article from The Hill
- check out this Wall Street Journal Health Blog post