‘Price transparency will allow consumers to make cost effective health care decisions’
ANCHORAGE – Health care price transparency regulations, enacted through Senate Bill 105 in 2018, will take full effect on December 20, meaning that Alaskans will be guaranteed the right to know how much health care procedures and services cost in advance of treatment rather than being surprised by a large bill later.
Providers and facilities are required under the law to list their most commonly provided services and the “undiscounted” price for those services under the measure sponsored by Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, an Anchorage Democrat. The undiscounted price is the cost of a service before agreements are made between insurance companies and the facility. The transparency measure also ensures that Alaskans can request a good faith estimate from their health care providers for procedures and services before receiving care.
If a provider or facility is unwilling to provide an estimate or fails to post the prices of the most commonly performed services, Alaskans should file a complaint with the Department of Health and Social Services for investigation and potential enforcement action. Complaints can be directed to DHSSpricereporting@alaska.gov.
This new policy led to Alaska’s recognition as a national leader in terms of health care price transparency, with a white paper by the Massachusetts-based Pioneer Institute recognizing Alaska’s laws as one of the top three in the country for consumers.
“Two-thirds of bankruptcies in the United States are the result of health care bills, and Alaska has some of the highest health care costs in the country,” Representative Spohnholz said. “Health costs are eating up Alaskans’ household income, business growth, and government budgets. This price transparency measure, long in the coming, will help Alaskans understand and manage their own health care costs.”
“Health care price transparency will allow consumers to make cost effective health care decisions, encourage competition, and provide price for service clarity,” said Bruce Bustamante, President and CEO of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. “This legislation should help to bring market forces to bear on health care providers that sometimes has not provided clear pricing for services.”
Preston Simmons, chief executive of Providence Alaska, added, “Providence Health and Services Alaska fully supports price transparency and providing Alaskans with tools to make informed health care decisions. Providing consumers with clear pricing information helps families understand their personal costs and avoid surprise medical bills. We appreciate these efforts to advance more affordable health care in Alaska.”
The Alaskans for Sustainable Healthcare Costs (“ASHC”) is a group of Alaskan employers concerned about the continuing escalation of health care costs in Alaska. The group’s president, Rhonda Prowell-Kitter, said, “We are educating our employees how to be responsible consumers of healthcare services. A vital piece of their education is knowledge of the price of medical/dental services before they are obtained. SB105 requires healthcare providers and facilities to post their prices and providers and insurers to provide good faith estimates upon request. We are grateful to Rep. Spohnholz, Rep. Geran Tarr, Sen. David Wilson and Sen. Cathy Giessel for this effort in bringing about this important consumer tool.”
Cale Green is an Alaskan who benefited from provisions of SB105 that already took effect. He said, “In 2019, when I was uninsured and got into an accident where I broke my clavicle, my eyes were opened to the multitude of problems surrounding transparency in our healthcare system. Fair and free markets have been one of the bed rocks of American democracy and yet pricing in our healthcare system is at times antithetical to that. This bill gave me tools to compel my provider to give me costs upfront – and ultimately, I was able to make an informed decision based on what was best for me.”
ATTACHMENT: A report released by the Pioneer Institute earlier this year which ranks Alaska in the top three states nationally in terms of health care price transparency as a result of the passage of SB105.
Alaska House Majority