Honorable Steve Kagen, M.D.

Wisconsin's former 8th District Representative

January 4, 2007 to December 22, 2010

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U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen’s bill on health-care pricing transparency draws bipartisan backing

Posted on May 7, 2010 by

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen’s bill on health-care pricing transparency draws bipartisan backing

By LARRY BIVINS • Press-Gazette• May 7, 2010

WASHINGTON — In a rare display of bipartisan agreement, U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen’s proposal for transparency in health-care pricing drew support Thursday from both sides of the political aisle.

Transparency also got a plug from ThedaCare Inc. board chairman Walter Rugland, who offered the experience of the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality as an example of how disclosing costs can lead to more efficient, higher-quality care.

But an antitrust attorney warned that making public the cost of health-care services could spark price-fixing and higher prices.

Kagen’s bill would require any individual or business offering health care-related products or services to openly disclose their prices at all times, including on the Internet.

The measure was one of several transparency proposals on the table Thursday at a hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health.

Supporters of transparency said consumers should be able to comparison-shop for health-care services the same way they do for other services or products, such as used cars.

Testifying before the subcommittee, Kagen, D-Appleton, told colleagues that transparency would increase competition, which in turn would lower costs. Kagen said transparency would reduce sharp price variations.

Michael Cowie, an antitrust lawyer, cautioned lawmakers about rushing into transparency requirements. He said the FTC opposes such proposals. The bill, Cowie said, "would conflict with established antitrust principles designed to prevent collusion. … The requirement of Internet price posting may contribute to price increases."

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