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Proposed OK Bill Would Require Surgery Prices To Be Posted Online

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Need knee surgery? How about a tonsillectomy? A bill being considered by Oklahoma lawmakers would require hospitals to post the prices they charge for surgeries online.

The bill would allow you to price the procedure you would be getting at the hospital, just like if you were looking at a menu at a restaurant.

At the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, they have been posting their prices online for five years.

"It's been a wild success beyond anything really I thought could happen," said Surgery Center of Oklahoma Medical Director Keith Smith.

From eye to ankle, the full price of the procedure is all there with no extra costs. It's where Kanda Ramos decided to get her bunion surgery after researching the price.

"For me the decision was pretty easy," said Ramos.

Now Rep. Arthur Hulbert wants to make that decision easy, or at least easier, for us all by requiring hospitals to do like the Surgery Center is doing: post prices online.

House Bill 2400 passed unanimously (9-0) out of the House Public Health committee and is now headed to the House floor for consideration. It would require hospitals and surgical centers that bill Medicaid to provide price information for the 100 most common diagnostic-related groups, the 100 most common surgical procedures and the 50 most common imaging procedures to the Oklahoma Department of Health. The prices would be posted on the Department of Health website at least annually.

The bill also requires a hyperlink on the Department of Health's website for reporting clinical outcomes such as infection rates, mortality rates and other clinical indicators.

"Patients should have a right to know the cost of a procedure before they are required to sign a document assuming financial responsibility," said Rep. Hulbert, R-Ft. Gibson. "Providing transparency for hospital and surgical center pricing along with clinical outcomes will help the patient to be able to make a more informed decision regarding their healthcare. Ultimately, the free market will help drive down costs and improve clinical outcomes. Insurance companies have been provided price lists for years. Why shouldn't patients have the same right?"

"I know he's well intentioned, I've heard all about him, but I think it's a bad idea," countered Dr. Smith somewhat surprisingly.

"I'm just afraid with a legislator, a lawmaker, defining transparency there would be so many unintended consequences that would actually interfere with the development of this movement," he says, "It would be counterproductive."

The Oklahoma Hospital Association says they support the bill. Here is a written statement:

"The Oklahoma Hospital Association fully supports greater transparency on hospital pricing and quality. Public hospital pricing transparency tools should be offered in a meaningful way that is useful to patients and family members. We have made some suggestions to the author of HB 2400 and are working with him to ensure any transparency efforts meet the goal of helping the public make informed decisions about their care."

But they also add that the uncompensated care they give the uninsured affects their prices.

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