Alaska city considers healthcare transparency ordinance
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Ketchikan officials are seeking an ordinance requiring health care practitioners in the city to disclose estimated medical costs to patients before they receive treatment.
The proposed ordinance is modeled after a measure adopted in Anchorage earlier this year that aimed to make health care costs more transparent, the Alaska Journal of Commerce reported.
At the Ketchikan City Council meeting last week, officials with the Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce called for the ordinance, claiming it would help create better market conditions and increase consumer satisfaction.
The statement from the chamber described Anchorage's ordinance as reasonable and able to be easily met by practitioners.
The Anchorage ordinance requires health care practitioners and facilities to provide written estimates of expected health care charges within 10 business days after a request from patients seeking nonemergency medical care.
It also requires the facilities to post signage in patient waiting areas about requesting cost estimates.
Medical billing has been an issue in Ketchikan, council member Janalee Gage said, noting a delay in getting answers to billing questions and an apparent lack of transparency.
"Then when you get the bill, it doesn't tell you what the procedure was for," Gage said. "They don't send receipts to verify you paid. Billing comes from various places around the country."
Ed Freysinger, the chief administrative officer for PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center, told the council that he would like to see a debate between all stakeholders before a decision is made on an ordinance. He noted that the hospital, which is the main provider in Ketchikan, has made changes to address billing issues.
No action was taken on the proposed ordinance last week.