Louisiana law sets up health care transparency site

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal recently signed the Louisiana Consumers’ Right to Know Act, clearing the way for development of a Web site to provide consumers comparative information on the cost, performance and quality of hospitals and health care providers.

The law, signed July 11, provides $500,000 in funding and authorizes the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to require hospitals, physician practices and managed care organizations to supply cost data on their services.

The health care transparency Web site is scheduled to go live April 30, 2009.

Patients will be able to view pricing for different procedures, the number of times a physician has performed that procedure and their complication rates. The site will also show patient safety indicators defined by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality such as bedsore rates, anesthesia complication rates, infection rates, blood transfusion errors and the number of deaths that result during low-mortality procedures.

“I can already say that it will be successful because patients will be better educated and providers will use the site to compare themselves with their competitors,” said Alan Levine, secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals, who helped start a similar transparency site in Florida. “It’s predictable based on human nature that this will influence provider behavior.”

“Hospitals and physicians will be a lot more assertive, aggressive really, about improving quality because they know that their data is going to be public,” he added.

The site will also show quality and cost data from managed care organizations operating in Louisiana. “For a small business looking to find the best possible health insurance plan for their employees, they’ll now have a one-stop place to go for information about all the different plans available to them,” Levine said.

Most provider data is already reported to the state on paper-based billing forms, Levine said, but his department will work to enable electronic reporting. “We want to harness technology and not make the providers do extra work,” he said.

About the Author

Heather Hayes is a freelance writer based in Clifford, Va.

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