Bill seeks data for consumers to compare health-care choices | NevadaAppeal.com

Bill seeks data for consumers to compare health-care choices

Consumers have access to information to make informed decisions about autos, electronics – in fact, just about any kind of goods and services.

Anything except health care, according to Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno.

As a result, she told the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee, “consumers are often left to themselves to navigate the health-care system and make life-or-death decisions with little information.”

She introduced AB146 to begin fixing that problem. The legislation would collect a variety of data from hospitals and post that information on easily navigable Web sites so that anyone can compare prices for different procedures and the quality of care provided in Nevada’s hospitals.

Leslie said the bill shouldn’t be a major burden on those hospitals since they already collect most of the data for either the state or federal government.

And she said what she wants has already been done in several states, is being considered in a dozen more, and is supported by President Bush, among other national figures.

She said when buying most other products, from automobiles to electronics to appliances, consumers have “a huge amount of information” and the ability to negotiate a price. But in medical services, she said, there is only limited information available to the consumer.

“This has the goal of informed-consumer choice,” Leslie said.

She said she wants a system that allows consumers to compare prices and the quality of care.

She said the system Wisconsin has allows easy comparison of hospital prices for a variety of ailments, procedures and services.

The Florida system, she said, allows comparison of quality indicators such as length of stay, average charge for a procedure and even mortality rates.

Leslie received support for the plan from the Nevada Hospital Association and others. Bill Welch, of the Hospital Association, said the bill should be expanded to include free-standing surgical center which, he said, compete with hospitals. He said those centers don’t do all procedures, only those they choose to.

He also said the association is interested in the Wisconsin Internet site program, and has voted to purchase a copy of it to consider in Nevada.

George Ross, representing Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas, joined Welch in recommending the bill be expanded beyond just hospitals. He said doctors, labs, health maintenance organizations and others should also be included.

Leslie said there will be a subcommittee to refine the bill, and that she anticipates changes before a final plan goes to a vote. But she made it clear she, too, supports including more providers than just the hospitals.

The committee took no action on the measure.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.