Oct. 23—An Oregon healthcare union submitted five ballot measures for the 2014 election aimed at hospitals, including one requiring greater price transparency.

The ballot initiatives filed by Local 49 of the Service Employees Union, which represents some Oregon and Washington healthcare workers, include a proposal to require hospitals to publicly post the prices for their most common procedures.

The other ballot initiatives would seek to cap executive compensation at 15 times the salary of the lowest¬-paid employee; require hospitals to spend at least 5 percent of service costs on charity care for low-income patients; create price limits for larger hospitals; and require public posting of hospital quality data.

The union pushed the ballot initiatives after failure to advance the five goals in the state legislature, according to local media reports. The union still must collect the required number of signatures for the measures to be included on the ballot. 

Increased Push for Hospital Price Transparency

The Oregon transparency push comes amid a growing number of state and national initiatives seeking public disclose of healthcare costs. The National Conference of State Legislature reports that 34 states require hospitals to report certain charges and reimbursement rates, and legislation seeking to increase the availability of rates charged at hospitals is pending in 30 states.

North Carolina enacted a law in August that requires hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers to disclose prices for 140 medical procedures and services. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will publish online the submitted pricing information on the 100 most common inpatient procedures, 20 most common surgical procedures, and 20 most common imaging procedures.

That state law followed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS’s) release in the spring of pre-discount charges by hospitals for the 100 most common inpatient and the 30 most common outpatient procedures.

In June, HFMA established a task force to address price transparency issues. The group, which aims to develop consensus recommendations for the industry, includes representatives of hospitals, physicians, employer groups, healthcare rating organizations, and patient advocates.

The pressure for increased hospital price transparency has increased as patients have taken on a greater share of their healthcare costs. For instance, the share of covered workers enrolled in high-deductible health plans has risen rapidly from 13 percent in 2010 to 20 percent in 2013, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation 2013 Health Benefits survey.

But the drive to price transparency faces resistance from some insurers and providers over concerns that it will hurt their bottom lines in a wide variety of ways.

Publication Date: Wednesday, October 23, 2013