“Price Transparency” Provision Removed From House Health Care Information Technology Bill

House leaders on Wednesday removed a provision that would have required hospitals to make public some price information from a health care information technology bill (HR 4157), CQ Today reports (Crowley, CQ Today, 7/26). The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) and Nathan Deal (R-Ga.), would codify the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology within HHS and would establish a committee to make recommendations on national standards for medical data storage and develop a permanent structure to govern national interoperability standards. The bill also would clarify that current medical privacy laws apply to data stored or transmitted electronically and would require the HHS secretary to recommend to Congress a privacy standard to reconcile differences in federal and state laws. Under the bill, the number of billing codes health care providers use to file insurance claims would increase from 24,000 to more than 200,000 by Oct. 1, 2009 (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 6/8). In addition, the legislation would provide grants of about $30 million for the implementation of electronic health record systems. According to CQ Today, the “price transparency” provision, supported by conservative lawmakers as part of an effort to “make the health care marketplace more amenable” to health savings accounts, “angered the hospital industry, which lobbied lawmakers to take it out of the bill.” Some lawmakers also criticized the provision because the measure did not appear in versions of the bill passed in June by the House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees. The removal of the provision “is likely to help smooth passage of the bill … when it comes to the floor Thursday,” CQ Today reports (CQ Today, 7/26). One House leader on Wednesday said that the legislation likely will pass (O’Connor et al., The Hill, 7/27).

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