This Week’s Legislative Column from Senator Mike Cunningham

Cunningham - Column Banner - 060514

The Health Care Transparency Act

For the last several years, lawmakers have worked hard to provide transparency to costs of medical procedures and tests, and also find a way to fix some of the problems in our health care system associated with costs of care. I am proud to say this year legislation was passed that will help do both.

The Healthcare Transparency Act will provide much needed information to the consumer and help to lower health care cost. Nowhere else in America do we buy and consume a product without first knowing the price. It is time for the health care industry to inform its patients for the cost of service.

Senate Bill 608, directs the Department of Social Services to create a web portal where hospitals and other health care providers are required to share costs of service for the 100 most common medical procedures. This section of the legislation will provide transparency to the consumers so they can make informed health care decisions based on competitive pricing.

This legislation received my full support even through veto session when the Legislature overrode the governor’s veto of the bill. This legislation requires Medicaid to charge an $8 copay fee for a hospital emergency room visit that does not involve a medical emergency.

The bill allows health care providers to charge a fee for a missed appointment. MO HealthNet participants must pay the missed appointment fee before scheduling another appointment with the provider. Permissible fees are as follows: No charge for the first missed appointment in a three-year period; $5 for the second missed appointment, same time period; $10 for the third missed appointment in the same time period, and $20 for the fourth and each subsequent missed appointment in a three-year period.

I support the implementation of co-pays. By imposing co-pays for certain types of visits, or for missing appointments, we are helping solve two major problems: overcrowding of emergency departments for those seeking non-emergency care, and patients who continuously miss appointments with providers, costing the provider money and blocking access to care for patients who really need it.

As always, I appreciate it when groups from around Missouri and from our community back home come to visit me at the Capitol. If you would like to arrange a time to come and visit me in Jefferson City, or if you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.