Transparency in Health Care
On March 9, 2010, the Wisconsin Legislature adopted 2009 Wisconsin Act 146 to ensure that health care facilities provide easy-to-access information regarding health care charges and quality.
What does this mean for you? You can find how much a hopsital or clinic charges for services and you can also find out how well that health care service is doing in quality measures. All this great information, to help you make a good decision when choosing what provider or system to use for health care.
Bellin Health, a strong and long-time proponent for transparency in health care, is preparing to start enacting the specifications of Wisconsin Act 146 by January 1, 2011, the date the law takes effect.
“This law is designed to assist patients’ efforts to make sound and informed choices regarding potential health care services,” said Kevin McGurk, Bellin Health Controller. “The law essentially legislates what we at Bellin Health have already been doing for quite some time now.”
According to the law, health care providers are required to disclose upon request to consumers the median billed charges for specific health care services, diagnostic tests and procedures. The law requires clinic-based health care providers to disclose specified charge information for the 25 conditions for which they most frequently provide services.
Wisconsin Act 146 also requires hospitals to disclose specified charge information for the 75 diagnosis-related groups for which hospitals in Wisconsin most frequently provide inpatient care. Additionally, the law requires insurers providing coverage under disability policies and self-insured health plans of state and local government, to provide to insured patients or enrollees, upon request, an estimate of the total out-of-pocket costs for specified services.
“Historically, Bellin Health has been at the forefront in terms of pricing transparency, so instituting the requirements of this new law is not outside of the norm for us,” McGurk said. “This information – we already offer pricing information through vehicles like Compare Care – will enable our patients and their families to make even better informed choices and ensure an enhanced patient experience at Bellin.”
The most notable changes patients and Bellin employees will see once the law takes effect will be a prominently displayed statement at the service desk in the hospital’s Laird Welcome Center informing patients of their right to receive charge information and/or good-faith estimates of out-of-pocket costs. Patients will be informed of their rights and encouraged to visit the Bellin Health website for specific, easy-to-access pricing information – although patients may also request a printed copy of the information as well.
The clinics have until March 1, 2011 to comply with the law. “So over the next couple of months we’ll be working with them to ensure that they’re ready to meet the full intent of Wisconsin Act 146,” McGurk said.