Health care price transparency fight goes to round two in Arizona

In March, CivSource reported on a report card issued from two non-profit organizations, Catalyst for Payment Reform (CPR) and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute (HCI3) on health care price transparency. In that report, most state’s received failing grades when it came to offering information about the cost of basic health procedures. Last week, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have required more health care price transparency in that state. Parts of that bill have now been revived, and may be packaged into a second attempt to get a law passed.

Health care price transparency is an issue that has come to the foreground as health care costs have risen dramatically for many consumers. Price transparency in terms of insurance premiums, was included as part of one of the goals of Obamacare, with supporters arguing that by offering consumers the chance to compare insurance coverage and pricing they could make better, and cost controlling decisions. Others want that same idea extended to procedures like hip replacements or getting your tonsils out.

In Nevada, lawmakers passed several bills last year in an effort to improve health care price transparency, however as the state works through implementation, it still received a failing grade in the study, at least in the short term. Those bills were the result of investigative reporting conducted by the Las Vegas Sun.

In Arizona, lawmakers there put up a bill that was vetoed by the Governor last week. She said in her letter explaining the action that requirements for price transparency were too broad and would have included organizations like Veterans Affairs which don’t typically accept cash payments for care. The Arizona bill was opposed by the local health care community and some democrats.

Those who oppose such measures say they will do little to bring down the cost of health care. A recent piece in The Atlantic also notes that in some cases, posting the price of procedures actually caused some of the lower priced providers to raise their base rates.

The move by the Governor may have also been political. According to an Associated Press account, the sponsor of the health care price transparency bill, Republican Senator Nancy Barto, is opposed to the Medicaid expansion requirement included in Obamacare. The Senator has said she still opposes expansion despite the veto.

Now, Barto and others in favor of health care price transparency are working to make the parts of the original bill the Governor opposed, more specific. The new bill has already passed the Senate and is expected to go to the House for consideration.