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AZ Senate revives vetoed medical care pricing bill

Sen. Nancy Barto (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

The Arizona Senate voted Monday to revive the major provisions of a medical pricing transparency bill that was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer just last week.

Senate Bill 1115 by Republican Sen. Nancy Barto would have required health care providers to post prices for common medical procedures. Brewer said in a veto letter on Friday that it was overly broad and could lead to litigation and impair the state medical board’s ability to investigate medical billing abuses. She also said it should not apply to state, federal and tribal facilities.

The bill was opposed by the health care industry and Democrats in the Legislature.

Barto amended another health bill on the Senate floor Monday to add the language from the vetoed bill. She excluded the facilities named by Brewer and says she thinks the changes address Brewer’s concerns.

“I think we’re going to be able to secure her support,” Barto said. “I think she wants to support this bill, and I think with these changes she’ll be fine.”

The amended bill is House Bill 2045 and passed the Senate on a 19-10 vote. It now returns to the House for consideration. It establishes a new formula for the state’s Medicaid program to determine hospital reimbursements.

The veto was seen by some as an effort by Brewer to send a message to Barto, who is an opponent of the governor’s proposal to expand the state’s Medicaid program to an additional 300,000 low-income Arizonans under provision of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law. The Legislature must approve the expansion.

Barto said Monday that she’s still opposed to the Medicaid expansion.

“I don’t think the state ought to be moving in this direction in such a sweeping way, I think we should stay within our budget — so no,” she said.

But she said she doesn’t believe the veto was retaliatory, and that she’s talked with the governor’s staff about the veto and believes she will have the governor’s support now.

“I don’t think that she’s playing games,” Barto said. “I think she’d be foolish to play games with good policy bills that she should be supporting as a free-market Republican.”

Brewer’s spokesman, Matthew Benson, said the governor generally supports transparency in health care pricing and her staff has spoken with Barto about reviving the vetoed bill. But Benson said she would have to examine the specific legislation before deciding whether or not to sign the bill if it reaches her desk.

The vetoed bill would have required doctors and hospitals to provide or post online direct-pay prices for the 25 most common procedures, among other provisions.

5 comments

  1. So, how are these prices going to be consistent and up to date? There are too many questions.

    And, if the Gov. doesn’t go with the fed’s help, how is the State going to service the magnatude of Medicaid patients without going bankrupt? The Democrats and Obama created Medicaid, so let them pay 90% of the cost for the next few years…God knows how the State will pay for it after that!

  2. Of course it would be nice to have transparency in health care prices, but unfortunately it is not actually possible. The point is that providers do not charge a standard price even within their own practice or hospital. The price actually charged depends on the insurance carried by the patient and, less often, by negotiation between the patient and the provider. Providers set a price, usually inflated, which is then “adjusted” by Medicare and/or the insurance company. It can also happend that a particular procedure turns out to be more or less difficult than orignally thought, and that can affect the price.
    Also I thought that Republicans like Barto want to reduce regulation and bureaucracy. Requiring providers to post prices will eventually lead to more paperwork and will require hiring more state employees to enforce the requirement. Do we really need all that?

  3. Totally agree, Eli. It is a MESS to say the least.

  4. I am blessed to qualify for the S. Az. VA Health Care System, which is beyond belief in quality of care and follow-up. I encourage all Veterans to sign up with the VA. I understand our VA here in Tucson is unusual to most throughout the Country in its excellence. I have even encountered people from Phx. and Prescott while in the waiting room of the surgery unit, as they don’t have the care in Phx. they have here in Tucson. I had a massive surgery on a femur and good hip replacement and was walking without a cane in 2 months.

    Vets of any age should look in to their local VA. Seems whoever is in charge in Tucson should be training throughout the Country to bring all VA facilities up to the quality of Tucson. Many of our young vets should be using these facilities. Especially those of low incomes or unemployed. We have a huge mental health problem in this State among younger generations and I believe the VA could alieveate a lot of these problems in proper medical care.

  5. Every business is required to provide transparent pricing or it gets sued for fraud. These dishonest practices in health care have been going on too long. It’s time to make them follow the same free market practices that every other business has to follow. If they can’t figure out how to do it, than maybe they shouldn’t be in business.

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