Minnesota ponders hospital cost estimates

May 8, 2006 at 1:31 PM
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ST. PAUL, Minn., May 8 (UPI) -- Minnesota lawmakers are reportedly considering a bill requiring hospitals and clinics to provide cost estimates, allowing patients to compare prices.

The bill wouldn't affect emergency room patients, but it would allow others to review care estimates and then select the hospital offering the best deal, much as one can compare estimates from car repair shops, The St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press reported Monday.

The proposal also would require insurers, pharmacists and physicians to provide cost information.

But the legislation allows hospitals some discretion about how they reveal costs -- allowing estimates based on the full price or on the price after insurance discounts. Critics say patients won't be able to compare prices if hospitals are allowed to use different methods for their estimates. Others worry that cost will trump quality.

Critics say price information is useful but only if patients can obtain quality information, the Pioneer-Press reported. They say a hospital might charge more for a surgery, but if it does a better job, patients won't pay as much in follow-up care.

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