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Bill would require hospitals to post prices online

We already use the internet to shop for the cheapest flights and hotels, so why not hospitals?

Tuesday, State Rep. Brandon Hixon, R-Caldwell, introduced a bill that would require hospitals to report price estimates for their 50 most common procedures to a website and mobile app, which would be maintained by the state.

While the Idaho Hospital Association says it is opposed to the bill, hospitals across eastern Idaho say they support it.

“Any time you can improve communication, increase transparency, you can make the healthcare experience better for patients and family members,” said Coleen Niemann, spokeswoman for EIRMC.

EIRMC already posts its price estimates on its website.

Other hospitals have similar pricing tools, including Portneuf Medical Center, which allows patients to get estimates over the phone.

“Letting people know what they’re getting for what they’re paying for, and then how much am I gonna pay if I need to shop around. So that was again, that was the whole point of implementing the pricing line,” said Dan Ordina, CEO of Portneuf Medical Center.

But this bill would put all that information on one central website. Mountain View Hospital says that while they support this in theory, they say it poses problems in practice.

“Our hospital will quote the low end up to the high end and kind of give a range of what the surgeries will cost. Some hospitals just choose to offer the lower end of the range to the patients and it doesn’t give the patients a real great idea of what the overall cost is,” said Josh Tolman, Chief Administrative Officer at Mountain View Hospital.

Madison Memorial Hospital said they oppose the bill outright.

“The reason why we oppose this so heavily is because it’s gonna be costing much–quite a bit of money are far as dealing with implementing this particular bill,” said Madison Memorial spokesman Doug McBride.

The bill is estimated to cost $1.7 million.

Instead, Madison Memorial, along with the Idaho Hospital Association, is supporting a bill introduced last month by State Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston. This bill would have the state look into the possibility of creating a database of claims from insurers. It’s unclear if the bill would make this information available to the public.

“We believe Rushe’s approach to the data collections is much better as it brings stakeholders together to study the issue and determine the best way to move forward on data collection,” said McBride.

Local News 8 reached out to Bingham Memorial Hospital for comment, but they didn’t return our phone call.

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