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Wisconsin bill would create state hospital price transparency requirement

The state's hospital association opposes the plan, which it says would duplicate a federal requirement

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An empty hospital bed is surrounded by medical equipment.
An empty room in the ICU on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022, at Meriter Hospital in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

A group of Republican state lawmakers is introducing a plan that they say would force Wisconsin hospitals to be more transparent about how much they’re charging for procedures.

The move is opposed by the state’s hospital association, which argues it duplicates a similar requirement by the federal government.

The plan introduced by state Sen. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, and other GOP lawmakers would require hospitals to keep a list on their website of 300 “shoppable services,” or nonemergency procedures they provide. The plan would ban hospitals from charging for the information or requiring people to set up user accounts to read it.

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The state’s Department of Health Services would be in charge of enforcing the requirement. If hospitals don’t comply, DHS could fine smaller facilities up to $600 per day. Larger hospitals, those with more than 550 beds, could get hit with daily fines of $10,000.

“Health care is the only thing Wisconsinites purchase that we don’t know the price of beforehand,” Felzkowski said Wednesday at a state Capitol news conference introducing the plan. “And that has to change.”

The Wisconsin Hospital Association released a written statement calling the proposal unnecessary given a similar requirement that already exists at the federal level.

“Wisconsin hospitals are national leaders in complying with federal transparency law and that is why WHA believes this legislation is unwarranted,” said Eric Borgerding, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Hospital Association. “Further, the legislation creates a new set of state regulations and penalties that will complicate and confuse compliance with existing federal regulations, and penalties being rigorously enforced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).”

Felzkowski argued the new state requirement is necessary because the federal government isn’t enforcing compliance with its health transparency requirement.

“It’s time that the state stepped up and started looking out for our constituents around the cost of health care,” Felzkowski said. “And that’s what this bill does.”

Felzkowski said the proposal could be used by employers to comparison shop insurance plans for their workers. She said it could also be used by people to compare prices for procedures, like a mammogram.

The plan is also backed by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty.

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