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Vote on health care price transparency proposal blocked by health industry lobbying

For Immediate Release

Yesterday a scheduled vote on a bill to require health care providers to give consumers up front prices was pulled from consideration, and the bill will not meet today’s deadline for all bills to clear their first committee vote. 

Senate Bill 891, supported by OSPIRG and a coalition of consumer advocates, small businesses and health care providers, would have required Oregon health care facilities to post their own prices publicly, like other businesses, and provide real-time price estimates on request. SB 891 was sponsored by State Senators Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, MD (D-Beaverton) and Brian Boquist (R-Dallas). 

“We are disappointed that the Legislature will not move forward with this common sense proposal,” said Jesse O’Brien, OSPIRG Health Care Advocate. “Health care still costs too much and the least we can do is make sure health care prices are publicly available, as with any other business.”

In response to health care industry opposition, SB 891’s supporters suggested several compromise proposals. These included eliminating the posting requirements, limiting the real-time price estimate requirement to hospitals, and requiring health insurance companies to make their existing price tools available to the general public. These proposals were scheduled for discussion yesterday but, following continued lobbying in opposition from health insurers and the state Hospital Association, they did not receive a hearing or a vote. 

“It is rather astonishing that even these common-sense steps were opposed by powerful health care industry interests,” said O’Brien, “For Oregonians to take charge of their own health care, they need the actual price. What is so hard about that?”

For more background on SB 891, see OSPIRG’s fact sheet, and a white paper outlining the differences between SB 891 and a related proposal, SB 900. Since SB 900 requires the state to establish a hospital prices website, it will impose costs on the state budget, so it has been referred to the Legislature’s Committee on Ways and Means.

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