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Relating to the required disclosure of prices for certain items and services provided by certain medical facilities; providing administrative penalties.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
SB 1137 would require hospitals licensed under Chapter 241, Health and Safety Code to compile, maintain, and publicly disclose, the cost of certain hospital items and services. The list would be required to be updated regularly and to be prominently accessible on the facility's website without requiring extra steps to access it. Facilities would also be required to publish a list of at least 300 shoppable services, including certain services specified as shoppable services by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The bill describes in specific detail the types of items and services which must be disclosed as well as the form and method of disclosure. Administrative penalties would be applied for noncompliance.
Generally we take a dim view of expansive new regulations. However, healthcare does not operate in a free market environment. The heavily controlled healthcare and health insurance markets allow hospitals and other healthcare providers to evade transparency about the cost of their services. This type of price obfuscation does not exist in most segments of the economy that operate under free market conditions and offer true consumer choice.
No rational person would walk out of a grocery store with a cart full of food without knowing the cost, only to find out what they owe days or weeks after the food is consumed. Any grocery store that tried to implement such a system would quickly lose business to competitors and either abandon the scheme or go out of business. It's simply not a workable model in a free market system.
Yet that is largely how healthcare services operate, especially emergency services that are generally provided with no meaningful ability to shop around for a better price. Consumers have artificially limited choices, often don't find out how much services cost until after the fact, and have little meaningful opportunity to shop around for lower priced services. These factors contribute to the exorbitant cost of healthcare.
We would prefer that government address the high costs of healthcare by eliminating coverage mandates and other costly marketplace interventions that are the more serious cost drivers. However, in the absence of significant deregulation, we do not oppose mandatory price transparency.