In the past decade, 30 states have enacted health care price transparency laws in a push to give patients tools to make cost-effective choices, and to prevent price discrimination.
Among the state efforts:
New Hampshire and South Dakota both support websites on the cost of health care services. The New Hampshire website provides comparative information about the estimated amount that a hospital, surgery center, physician or other health care professional receives for services. South Dakota lists the median price for the top inpatient and outpatient procedures at each of the state's hospitals.
In California, hospitals must provide uninsured patients with a price estimate, and they may not bill for an amount greater than the reimbursement the hospital would receive from a government payer.
Massachusetts passed the Act to Promote Cost Containment, Transparency, and Efficiency in the Delivery of Quality Health Care in 2008, which requires pharmaceutical and medical-device manufacturers to report any item valued at $50 or more that they provide to health care practitioners. It also requires The Massachusetts Public Health Department to post these disclosures on its website.
And in January 2011, Wisconsin's health care transparency law took effect. The law states that patients have a right to information about charges, insurance payments and out-of-pocket costs for the most common types of care at hospitals and clinics.
Sarah Fister Gale is a freelance writer based in the Chicago area. To comment, firstname.lastname@example.org.