Transparency of Health Costs Murky in NW

By Tom Bacon

Even though "transparency" is all the rage among government buzzwords these days, all three northwest states - Idaho, Washington and Oregon - flunk miserably on a new report card about giving consumers information about health care costs.

A couple of nonprofit groups - the Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute - examined how well state laws work to give consumers basic information about average or expected prices of common health care services.

72% of the states - 36 of them - failed to meet most or any of the criteria set up by the study and got D or F grades.
Idaho, Washington and Oregon all got Fs.

The criteria include sharing information about the price of services for both inpatient and outpatient services, prices for both doctors and hospitals, whether information is available on public websites or reports, and whether patients are allowed to request such information before they're admitted to hospitals.

Suzanne Delbanco of the Catalyst for Payment Reform said that because health care costs continue to rise, and because consumers must take growing shares of those costs, it's only fair and logical, as she put it, to ensure that consumers have the information they need about quality and cost to make intelligent decisions.

Another report card co-sponsor said that prices for identical procedures performed in the same city can vary by as much as 700%.
For consumers to help rein in health care laws, they need timely and accurate price information.

The report card sponsors said that lawmakers should be worried that 18-percent of the U.S. economy is shrouded in mystery.

The researchers believe that Idaho, Washington and Oregon lawmakers are failing to help shed light on the problem.
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