North Carolina moves on health care price transparency, other states follow


Health care price transparency is a hot topic in state legislatures and in the health care industry itself. New measures are cropping up all over the US to force more pricing transparency among health care providers, although their passage has only seen mixed success.

Essentially these bills require providers to release some information about the general cost of a procedure ahead of time so that patients can put together a ballpark figure of cost. However, once these prices are out in the open, the wild disparities between health care providers are too. This can create a tough situation for providers, who then have to justify elevated price tags.

CivSource previously reported on a bill of this type which failed in Arizona, even after a series of investigative reports about hospital transparency overall done by the Las Vegas Sun. Now, North Carolina is stepping up to the plate, and has passed a bill that aims to insert more transparency into health care prices in that state.

North Carolina House Bill 834 requires hospitals and surgical centers to provide public pricing information for 100 common in-patient services, 20 common surgical procedures and 20 common imaging procedures to the state Department of Health and Human Services. DHHS will publish that information on its website. Another welcome provision in the bill limits how aggressively hospitals can go after patients who are having trouble paying back hospital bills. That provision limits the circumstances under which health care providers can us liens or wage garnishments to go after individuals.

Other states may soon follow suit, there is support for a similar measure in Oklahoma after a local health care provider sparked a price war in Oklahoma City by posting its prices online. Many states received a failing grades for health care price transparency in a recent Catalyst report, looking at nationwide laws on the issue. Some hospitals are moving forward on price transparency on their own as well after the federal government released Medicaid pricing data. Watch this space.