Health care transparency bill passes House

By: 
Michael Siebert

As lawmakers attempt to help drive down Montana’s health care costs, the full Legislature has passed a bill that would increase pricing transparency for medical procedures.
Senate Bill 362, introduced by Sen. Ed Buttrey, R-Great Falls, would require providers to list prices for procedures, as well as maintain a “transparency tool” that would allow consumers to compare prices throughout the state.
Buttrey said the bill would help encourage competition between providers, a market-based approach.
“We have to lower the cost of care at the providers,” Buttrey said. “Without competition I don’t really know how you’d do that.”
SB 362 initially provided a monetary incentive for patients who chose to shop for health care around the state. The Senate removed that from the bill after backlash from insurance companies, who said it would only incentivize patients to seek out lower quality health care.
The bill was carried in the House by Rep. Rob Cook, R-Conrad.
The original bill also required providers to warn patients if the cost would increase should they choose a service from an out-of-network provider. Rep. Kathy Kelker, D-Billings, introduced an amendment that places that burden on insurance companies instead. The amendment ultimately passed 79-21.
“Healthcare providers … probably have no idea who is out of network and who is in network under certain insurance policies,” Kelker said.
The bill passed on a vote of 88-11. The Senate agreed with the House’s amendments 42-8 and sent the bill to the governor.
Michael Siebert, Freddy Monares and Cole Grant are reporters with the UM Community and Legislative News Services, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Newspaper Association, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

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