Pressure for transparency is back
Despite transparency push, action could face delays
Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have shown renewed interest in mandating a boost in healthcare pricing transparency. But one key player, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), is skeptical that three bills that came before that committee last week will make it into law this year given Congress’ calendar is backlogged as a result of the lengthy healthcare reform fight.
One bill, introduced by Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Wis.), a physician, requires hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacies and a number of manufacturers and vendors to openly disclose prices. Failure to do so would result in a financial penalty. Kagen said the current system is “upside down,” adding that it allows for those with no insurance to be charged the full amount while it gives the insured steep discounts.
“Some will argue that showing everyone all of the prices is too complex, for there are tens of thousands of prices at any given hospitals,” Kagen said. “But today’s technology allows all of us to go online on the Internet and search for items to purchase and find exactly what we want to buy within milliseconds.”
Another bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) but backed by several Democrats, requires public and private health plans to make known what services they cover, any restrictions in that coverage and the cost-sharing requirements that are also involved. Two years