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Healthcare Price Transparency Takes Full Effect in Alaska December 20

Dec 18, 2020 | Government, Healthcare

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Healthcare 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 healthcare 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. 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 healthcare 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 [email protected].

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This new policy led to Alaska’s recognition as a national leader in terms of healthcare 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 healthcare bills, and Alaska has some of the highest healthcare costs in the country,” Representative Ivy Spohnholz says. “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.”

“Healthcare price transparency will allow consumers to make cost effective healthcare decisions, encourage competition, and provide price for service clarity,” says Bruce Bustamante, executive director of 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, adds, “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 healthcare costs in Alaska.

The group’s president, Rhonda Prowell-Kitter, says, “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.”

Cale Green is an Alaskan who benefited from provisions of SB105 that already took effect. He says, “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.”

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