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Lawsuit makes fate of health care price disclosure law uncertain

On the first of the month, dozens of new laws covering everything from employment and education to motor vehicles and firearms officially took effect here in Ohio. Interestingly enough, however, there was one law that was blocked from taking effect January 1 following the issuance of a 30-day restraining order in late December in a Court of Common Pleas in Williams County.

The law in question, which is actually only six sentences long, was originally sponsored by Rep. Jim Butler (R-Oakwood) and calls for greater transparency in health care costs.

Specifically, the law calls for health care professionals to provide patients with written price estimates prior to providing any non-emergency medical services. These estimates, in turn, would have to set forth 1) how much the patient's insurer will be charged for each procedure, service or test, 2) how much the patient's insurer will actually pay, and 3) how much the patient can expect to pay in out of pocket costs.

While supporters of the measure argue that greater price transparency in the medical sector is long overdue, opponents have countered that the law is "poorly written, confusing and ambiguous."

Indeed, a number of major players in the healthcare industry, including the Ohio Hospital Association, and the Ohio State Medical Association, have joined forces to file a lawsuit against the state of Ohio seeking to block the price disclosure law from taking effect.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs make a host of arguments as to why the law must be overturned, including:

  • The law was added to the budget bill for the Bureau of Workers' Compensation at the last possible minute back in the summer of 2015, and this legislative move violated the Ohio Constitution, which mandates that bills deal with only one topic and get three public readings prior to adoption.
  • The law mandates that rules for implementing the law must be drafted by the Ohio Medicaid director, but this official is not vested with authority over private insurance plans.
  • The law puts physicians in an untenable position, as their choices are limited to "delaying patient care and risking malpractice or providing that care and risk being sued for violating the law, or just not being compensated for services eventually provided."
  • The law creates problematic scenarios for which there are no answers, and will creates problems for millions of patients and thousands of providers.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for tomorrow. Stay tuned for updates …        

Consider speaking with a skilled legal professional if you have questions relating to an administrative law matter, or would like to learn more about your options for pursuing a civil lawsuit

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