Widely Supported Health Cost Database Dropped From Wash. Bill

March 3, 2014 in News

Premera Blue Cross — Washington’s largest health insurer — has successfully lobbied Republicans in the state Senate to block a widely supported plan to create an “all payer claims database,” the Spokane Spokesman-Review reports (Webster, Spokane Spokesman-Review, 3/2).

Background on Legislation

The legislation (HB 2572) would have required payers — mostly insurance companies — to disclose how much they pay for services at different provider locations.

The database would have paired cost information with provider quality data.

The bill was backed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and many state lawmakers. In addition, HB 2572 had gained support from:

  • The Washington State Hospital Association;
  • The Washington State Medical Association;
  • The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce; and
  • The National Federation of Independent Business (iHealthBeat, 2/6).

Claims Database Stripped From Bill

On Thursday, Senate Health Care Committee Chari Randi Becker (R-Eatonville) stripped the claims database provision from the bill and sent the measure to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for further action.

According to the Spokesman-Review, the move came after closed-door lobbying by Premera.

Premera spokesperson Eric Earling said, “We support transparency. We’d like to see more of it,” but he noted that price information is not “actionable” for consumers unless they also are given individualized coverage information, such as deductibles and co-payments.

Earling also said that it would be “complicated, potentially expensive and time consuming” to create a claims database and for insurers to comply with its data submission requirements.

In addition, he argued that the negotiated rates Premera pays health care providers are “proprietary” and that making such information transparent could lead to providers demanding higher payments.

Proponents of Claims Database Respond

At Thursday’s hearing, Patrick Connor of the National Federation of Independent Business said, “It is very, very frustrating … each time we come forward asking for more transparency, more access to information, the concerns of the health insurance carriers about not wanting to participate seem to trump those of the consumers who desperately need more good information to help control health care costs.”

Dorothy Teeter — director of the state Health Care Authority, which oversees health insurance for state employees and those on Medicaid — argued that a claims database would highlight inefficient health care pricing and create market pressure for change. She said, “When you blind people to the actual prices, what you are doing is the opposite of a healthy marketplace.”

Washington already has received a $3.4 million federal grant to create a health care claims database.

However, with the provisions stripped from HB 2572, the database only would include information voluntarily reported by insurers (Spokane Spokesman-Review, 3/2).

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