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Lipinski Introduces Bill to Lower Health Care Costs by Requiring Price Transparency by Hospitals

 
Bipartisan legislation recently introduced by Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-03) would allow consumers to compare prices charged by hospitals for common medical procedures and medications, helping to drive down surging health-care costs by fostering competition.

"At a time when we have more information than ever at our fingertips, health care costs remain largely hidden from view," Lipinski said. "We can shop online for everything from airline tickets to clothing, yet it is difficult to do the same with medical care. That is part of the reason costs are so high: We often have no idea what we are signing up for when we walk through a hospital's doors."

The Hospital Price Transparency and Disclosure Act of 2009 (H.R. 2566) would mandate that hospitals regularly inform the Department of Health and Human Services of the prices they charge for the 25 most common inpatient procedures; the 25 most common outpatient procedures; and the 50 most frequently prescribed medications.

HHS would then post the price information online. In addition, hospitals - as well as ambulatory surgery centers, which also are covered by the bill - would have to post notice in their facilities that the data is available through the health department's Web site.

The bill has been endorsed by Consumers Union, the independent, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine.

"Millions of Americans, particularly the uninsured, are faced with wildly varying charges for various hospital procedures, and it is often impossible or very difficult to obtain information about the likely cost of a hospital stay before admission to the hospital," Consumers Union stated. "By shining light on this complex area of pricing, Congressman Lipinski's efforts should help introduce an element of competition into the setting of charges and result in lower billings to patients, particularly in those cases where an area hospital's charges are most out of the norm."

Cosponsoring the measure with Lipinski is Rep. Bob Inglis (SC-04).

"Unexpectedly high medical bills create financial hardships for all too many Americans, forcing some deep into debt or even into bankruptcy," Lipinski said. "Increasing price transparency would help people to avoid that fate by allowing them to make sure they don't pay more than is necessary for the care they require."

When California implemented a price disclosure law, it found that one hospital charged $120 for a chest x-ray, while another charged more than $1,500.

Lipinski first introduced a version of the bill in 2005, drawing on his personal experience during a hospital stay resulting from a broken hip.

(June 12, 2009)

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