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Expedia for health care? New Colorado law creates more transparency around hospital prices

New Colorado law to create more transparency around hospital prices
New Colorado law to create more transparency around hospital prices 02:57

The price of health care is one of the best-kept secrets in the country. But that could soon change in Colorado.

Two and a half years after the federal government ordered hospitals to post their prices in easy-to-read formats, the state is doing what federal regulators have failed to do, which is enforce the policy.

A bipartisan new law allows Colorado's Attorney General to go after hospitals that don't comply. Failure to post prices would be a deceptive trade practice and carry a fine of $20,000 per violation.

Cynthia Fisher, founder of Patient Rights says the law is the toughest in the country and will be a national model.

She says health care is the only industry where we buy goods and services and find out later how much they cost. 

"As long as hospitals and insurance companies can hide their prices, they can charge whatever they want," she said. 

Right now, she says an MRI can run from $300 to $3,000 and C-sections from $6,000 to $60,000.


"We're seeing even drug prices within the same hospital be 10 times different," she said. 

In 2021, Fisher was part of a group that convinced the Trump administration to enact a federal rule that required all hospitals to post their prices for every procedure by every payer and every plan in an easy-to-read format. 

Two and a half years later, she says, only 25% of hospitals nationwide and 18% in Colorado are complying. Despite their defiance, she says, federal regulators have only fined four hospitals.

The State of Colorado is now stepping-in.

Gov. Jared Polis signed a law that directs the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to track compliance and refer those in violation to the attorney general.

"People have the right to know exactly how much things cost and have the ability to actually shop around beforehand, rather than just get mysterious bills in the mail after the fact," Polis said. 

Kim Bimestefer, Executive Director of Health Care Policy and Financing, says the new law will create competition in health care and save Coloradans money. 

"At the end of every price a hospital charges is a consumer, or a family, or an employer, or a municipality, or a taxpayer paying those prices. So, this is a game changer," she said. 

Fisher says Colorado will soon become the first place in the country where you can go online and shop for health care like you do anything else.

"It means that for the first time, we're going to be able to be in the driver's seat to actually know prices and drive down the cost of care," Fisher said. 

She says tech companies are ready to aggregate the data as soon as its posted and create a website like Expedia for health care, where you can search for knee surgery, for example, in Denver, on Friday, and get a list of options. 

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