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Brewer vetoes Barto’s health care price transparency bill

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer promotes her PAC petition in response to immigration plan

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed legislation aimed at forcing health care providers to publicly show their prices, a move that the bill’s sponsor said was disappointing and surprising considering the Ninth Floor’s lack of objections while she and the governor’s staff worked on the bill throughout the session.

SB1115 would have required health care providers to make public a list of costs for their 25 most commonly provided services, and would have required health care facilities to make publicly available their prices for their 50 most common outpatient service codes and group codes. Sen. Nancy Barto, who sponsored the measure, said it was intended to create transparency in health care costs.

Brewer said she supports price transparency, but that the bill had numerous problems. In her veto letter, Brewer said the bill’s definition of “health care facility” is overly broad and would include facilities that don’t serve the general public and might not charge cash prices for their services. Such facilities include Veterans Administration facilities, health care facilities on military bases, tribal facilities and the Arizona State Hospital.

The governor also wrote that the bill contains “ambiguous terms and definitions” that may conflict with state and federal law, and would potential lead to unnecessary litigation. Additionally, she said the bill could impede the Arizona Medical Board’s ability to investigate complaints and discipline doctors for billing abuses.

“I support price and quality of care transparency in the health care sector which will provide useful information to help patients manage their health care needs. Transparency will bring more accountability into the health care delivery system,” Brewer wrote in her veto letter.

But, she wrote, “I am concerned about the practical and potential legal implications of this bill. Accordingly, I cannot sign it in its current form.”

Barto, who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said the veto was a “huge disappointment.” She said the governor clearly is not on the side of patients, noting that Brewer vetoed some of her other health care reform legislation in past sessions. In 2011, Brewer vetoed two Barto bills that would have allowed Arizonans to purchase health insurance across state lines and would have authorized the governor to enter into an interstate compact on health care regulation.

“The governor is showing she is not on the side of consumers. She’s on the side of big hospitals,” Barto said. “At a time when patients are seeing their health care costs continue to rise more and more, employees are responsible for a much larger share of their health care, even if they have insurance. This would’ve benefitted consumers immeasurably.”

Barto, R-Phoenix, said she worked with Brewer’s staff throughout the session, and no one ever mentioned any of the concerns the governor raised in her veto letter. Had they raised those concerns, Barto said, she could have easily addressed them.

“I am just baffled, frankly, at the governor’s actions in vetoing health care price transparency,” she said. “They didn’t say anything that was in the veto letter. I think that those issues that were brought up in the veto letter were not brought up by the Ninth Floor ahead of time. And those were easy fixes.”

Matthew Benson, a spokesman for the governor, said he was unaware of whether Brewer’s concerns were raised by her staff during discussions with Barto.

The senator said she hasn’t given up on the bill, and hopes to get its provisions included in the budget.

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