The Missouri Senate has approved a bill that would require the state to publicize health care costs.
The state’s House of Representatives is currently considering the legislation.
On February 18, Senate Bill 608, sponsored by state Sen. David Sater (R-Cassville), passed the Senate 27–5. The bill included a price transparency amendment offered by state Sen. Jason Holsman (D-Kansas City). The amendment, known as the Health Care Cost and Transparency Act, would instruct Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to design a web portal that publishes costs for 140 of the most common medical, surgical, and imaging procedures “in a manner that is easily understood by the public,” according to the text of the amendment.
SB 608 would require hospitals to submit to DHSS prices for 100 of the most common inpatient health care procedures, 20 of the most common surgeries, and 20 of the most common imaging procedures performed in outpatient settings.
The amendment’s language matches that of SB 900, which Holsman introduced in January 2016, and resembles legislation Holsman offered in previous sessions.
Transparency Empowers Patients
Zac Sweets, Holsman’s legislative director, says the amended version of SB 608 would empower patients to shop for the best value and help individuals more accurately budget their health care costs.
“[This would] create a place for consumers to look when they are seeking common medical procedures,” Sweets said. “By creating an avenue for consumers to reference costs of service, this legislation further empowers them to not only find the most affordable services but to find the right information to better financial planning when it comes to health care.”
Sweets says transparency will motivate providers to offer, and patients to seek, competitive prices for health care.
“By creating transparency, providers and consumers can see costs across the state,” Sweets said. “This, we hope, will create the incentive for health care providers to make their costs more competitive, thus lowering the costs across the board.”
Sweets says advancing legislation in the Missouri Senate as a Democrat can be difficult when only eight of 32 occupied seats are held by Democrats.
“In the super-minority, the [Democratic] caucus has to work with their Republican colleagues to move their bill through committee and to the Senate floor,” Sweets said. “The challenge is finding the right opportunity to negotiate and maintaining relationships with Republicans in order to move policy forward.”
The House Health and Mental Health Policy Committee approved SB 608 shortly after receiving the bill from the Senate in February. The bill passed the House Health Insurance Committee on April 6.
‘Information Is Key’
State Rep. Diane Franklin (R-Camdenton) says helping patients access information about health care costs and quality is essential to health care reform.
“The approach fostering patient-centered health care reform must include ways for patients to access costs and quality of care to make important personal health choices,” Franklin said. “Information is key to a free-market system, and [without it] patients are robbed of their full freedom and decision-making power.”
Franklin says price transparency legislation could meet a need the Affordable Care Act has not.
“The so-called Affordable Care Act failed to put transparency in motion, and states have been slow to fill the void,” Franklin said. “I am glad to see efforts to enact health care price transparency in Missouri to enhance health care options with competition, efficiency, and higher quality care for all.”
Jordan Finney ([email protected]) writes from Hillsdale, Michigan.
Matthew Glans, “Health Care Price Transparency,” Research & Commentary, The Heartland Institute, March 11, 2016: https://heartland.org/policy-documents/research-commentary-health-care-price-transparency