Singleton, Coughlin, Schaer, Lampitt, Spencer & Lagana Bill to Reduce Costs, Increase Transparency in Health Care Pricing Continues Advancing

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Craig Coughlin, Gary Schaer, Pamela Lampitt, Grace Spencer and Joe Lagana to help lower health care costs and increase pricing transparency was advanced by an Assembly committee on Thursday.

The bill (A-952), the “Health Care Consumer Cost Transparency Act,” would establish a health care price index (HPI) to serve as a useful, objective, reliable and comprehensive health information index. Similar to all-payer claims databases available in other states, the HPI would be designed to make health care data available to state entities and not-for-profit researchers.

Data within the index would enable these parties to measure trends and identify outliers within the state health care system related to: health care safety and quality, health care utilization, health outcomes, costs, efficiency and other areas in the public interest.

“The Health Care Consumer Cost Transparency Act will provide comprehensive data about the quality and cost of health care and allow state policymakers to monitor efforts to reduce health care costs and improve both care quality and population health,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “Price transparency in health care is a critical ingredient toward giving consumers more information to improve their health care and lower costs.”

“Health care continues to be a cause of financial strain for middle class families,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “This legislation is aimed at introducing a sense of transparency and accountability to health care pricing so that we can alleviate some of that pressure.”

“Everyone, at some point, requires health care, and it is in the best interest of the public for us to ensure that cost is not a barrier to wellness,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “The health care price index will make it possible for decision makers to know, analyze and, ultimately, work to reduce the cost of care in New Jersey.”

“The health care price index will give health care policymakers access to an expansive set of data that can help identify trends and ultimately make quality, affordable health care more accessible,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Introducing this level of transparency to the health care industry in New Jersey will enable all parties involved to make well-informed decisions.”

“Creating a one-stop authority for reliable and comprehensive health care information will help lower health care costs and increase pricing transparency,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “This legislation is a step New Jersey can take to make smarter policy decisions and limit the hardships on health care consumers.”

“The cost of health care has, in many cases, driven families into devastating debt and forced people to make unimaginable sacrifices, and it’s become clear to everyone that this just isn’t sustainable,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “In addition to the recent changes at the federal level, the health care price index will help add some clarity to health care pricing and make it more affordable for more New Jersey residents.”

The measure would require the commissioner of the Department of Banking and Insurance to select an organization to maintain the HPI.

In addition to any already existing penalties, the legislation sets a penalty of up to $500,000 per violation for intentionally or knowingly using data in the HPI for commercial advantage, pecuniary gain, personal gain or malicious harm.

The bill also would establish in the Department of the Treasury a fund to be known as the “Healthcare Price Index Trust Fund.” The fund would serve as the repository for penalties collected and other monies received as grants or otherwise appropriated for the purposes of the index. The monies in the fund shall be used only to pay for administrative and operational expenses that the department incurs in order to carry out its responsibilities pursuant to the bill, including funding the organization charged with maintaining the HPI.

The bill was advanced by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, of which Spencer is vice-chair.