The legislation aims to improve upon a measure passed last year that created an all-payer claims database. One aim is to show consumers how dramatically the price of medical procedures can vary from provider to provider.
Supporters of greater transparency in health-care costs celebrated a victory Thursday with Gov. Jay Inslee’s signing of legislation that will expand a database of medical prices available to the public.
The new law improves upon a measure passed last year that created the all-payer claims database by requiring for the first time that Washington insurance companies share their cost data. Previously the database had access only to limited price information.
Many consumers are not aware that the cost of medical tests, surgeries and other procedures can vary dramatically from one clinic or hospital to another. Studies have also shown that more expensive care often does not correlate to better or higher quality.
Medical care can cost five times more at one location over another, and with insurance plans shifting more costs to the patients through higher deductibles and larger out-of-pocket obligations, easy access to price information becomes increasingly important.
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“Today is the start of a new era for cost and quality transparency in Washington state,” Patrick Connor, Washington state director at the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), said in a prepared statement. “Businesses and consumers will now have access to meaningful cost and quality information to make informed health-care decisions.”
Advocates for transparency in medical prices and quality tout the bipartisan, broad support for the legislation. Supporters joined up to form the Coalition for Health Care Cost Transparency, which included the NFIB, the non-profit Washington Health Alliance, Group Health Cooperative, and other businesses, medical groups and patient organizations.