Sunshine Week Spotlight: Heath Care Needs Price Transparency

ALEC is celebrating Sunshine Week, and no area of our economy needs sunshine more than health care. Health care is one of the few areas of our economy where we are expected to buy something without really knowing its price up front. Because of our third-party payer system, most of us think of cost more in terms of deductibles and co-pays than the total overall price of the services, but rising health care costs are forcing patients and policymakers to pay attention.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) required hospitals to post prices for their services. Today, ten years after the ACA became law, very few hospitals are in compliance. The Department of Health and Human Services has refused to enforce that requirement and states are starting to codify transparency requirements of their own—allowing states the power to enforce.

Colorado took their efforts a step further last year by prohibiting a hospital or other person or entity from collecting on debt incurred by the patient if the hospital was not in material compliance with federal hospital price transparency laws at the time of service. Oklahoma is considering a similar law this session.

Shining light on the costs of the services we’re receiving will help people pay more attention to the costs they incur and bring more competition to the health care market. Getting a handle on health care costs is particularly important to the long-term solvency of Medicare and Medicaid.  Efforts to bring transparency to health care have been largely bipartisan—which has become rare in today’s polarized political atmosphere—in some cases passing unanimously. Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma are all considering health care price transparency laws right now. Other states should follow their lead and look for ways to bring more transparency to health care costs.

Check out our ALEC Model Policy: Hospital Price Transparency Act, one of our Essential Policy Solutions for 2023.

In Depth: Health

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