Texas may soon have its own hospital price transparency requirements

While recent federal law requires hospitals to post prices for certain services, Texas doesn’t currently have a state-level price transparency law. Representative Jay Dean says federal rules frequently change, and believes Texas needs its own hospital price transparency requirement to protect patients. He is sponsoring HB 1490 to implement such a requirement.

 

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“Putting this in future law would protect Texan patients from future rule changes and give Texas some control over enforcement. Hospitals know the cash price. They do not have to disclose their negotiated price with their insurance companies. This does not tell patients what they owe after the insurance.”

The bill would require hospitals to make cash prices of their services publicly available on their websites, or provide prices to patients upon request.

“Health care is the only service [for which] you don’t know the price before you buy it … Price transparency is good for all patients.”

The Texas Hospital Association (THA) has been cooperating with Dean on the details of the bill. While THA is neutral on the bill, the association has several concerns about how the bill will impact hospitals.

Cameron Duncan, associate general counsel for THA, testified on the bill during Wednesday’s House Public Health Committee meeting, detailing some of these concerns. He asserted that THA is nonetheless supportive of price transparency measures:

“Texas hospitals are committed to ensuring that patients have the information that they need to make an informed decision, and that includes timely, accurate estimates of their out-of-pocket costs.”

One of THA’s primary concerns is that hospitals don’t always have a cash price for every service. According to Duncan, hospitals might have charity care policies, financial assistance policies, uninsured discount policies or case-by-case discounts for medical bills that affect the price of services. Duncan wants to ensure HB 1490 doesn’t require hospitals to present information they don’t have.

The association also wants to make sure the bill won’t interfere with Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) protections. This law requires hospitals to stabilize a patient’s emergency condition prior to discussing pricing with them. If hospitals are required to provide a price list as soon as a patient arrives in the emergency room — even if they are experiencing a health emergency — they would be forced to violate EMTALA, Duncan said.

Another concern is that price lists often contain thousands of lines of data. According to Dean, providing patients with these long lists might not necessarily be helpful to them. Dean said THA also wants to ensure that there are no conflicting federal and state hospital transparency requirements and that HB 1490 won’t complicate things by conflicting with federal requirements.

The bill was left pending in the committee on Wednesday.