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Health panel considers bill requiring more medical, dental cost transparency

Current standard charges for certain medical and dental practices could be accessible public information.

HF293 would do that and more.

It would also require the Department of Health to establish a public price comparison tool for items and services across practices, using the data reported by at least July 1, 2024.

The House Health Finance and Policy Committee approved the bill Tuesday, referring it to House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee.

“The background behind HF293 is that it is part of the Affordable Care Act. Hospitals are required to publish their prices and post them on their websites in an easily accessible place,” said Rep. Steve Elkins (DFL-Bloomington), the bill sponsor.

The rule took effect in 2021.

But what that rule did not do, according to Elkins, is specify a format to publish those prices. In fact, every hospital publishes its rates in a different format, making it difficult to decipher, he said.

To standardize the reports, the bill would require use of the format and data elements recommended by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The bill could expand price transparency’s scope.

“The federal government had statutory authority to require hospitals to report some of this information but did not have statutory authority to require other medical settings to report this information,” said Peter Nelson, senior policy fellow at Center of the American Experiment.

He said the bill would create more equity by requiring similar levels of reporting across the health care system.

Smaller facilities would be exempt, as only hospitals, outpatient surgical centers and any other medical or dental practice with an annual revenue of greater than $50 million would have to disclose prices.

University of Minnesota Professor Jean Abraham likes both the bill and its potential to help researchers learn more about health care pricing.

“Notably, we can understand how prices are changing over time for different segments of privately insured populations within location geographic markets,” she said. “We can also examine the relationship between changes in prices and provider-market competition.”

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