Washington state legislators in the House passed a bill intended to increase financial transparency and reporting among healthcare organizations.
House Bill 1272 passed in the House after a 58 to 40 vote on Feb. 25.
The bill’s prime sponsor, Nicole Macri (D-Seattle), said her bill will help the state to better understand how healthcare organizations are using tax dollars to serve different communities and will allow for these organizations to be held accountable as government spending on healthcare increases.
Macri said the Washington state government purchases more healthcare services than any other entity in the state, both for public employees and on behalf of more than two million low-income residents. She said that is why it is important for the public and for decision-makers to understand how well public dollars are being budgeted.
“This bill seeks data that will unveil what is important to solving, not just the sustainability and affordability of healthcare for Washingtonians,” Macri said. “It will also help us in solving the deep racial inequities in healthcare settings, including [higher] mortality rates that people of color, especially Black people face.”
If passed in the Senate, the bill would require healthcare providers to give detailed reports of the staff on-duty, the services they provide, the cost of those services and demographic information about the patients who receive care. Including the patient’s race, ethnicity, preferred language, any disability and zip code of primary residence.
Legislative Director at the Washington State Labor Council AFL-CIO Sybill Hyppolite said having data to see how healthcare resources are being used and how different patients are being treated across different intersectionalities will help us hold our healthcare system accountable.
Hyppolite said healthcare can often feel like a “black box,” in which patients receive their bill and it can be unclear exactly how costs are determined.
“Over the past decade, we watched our healthcare systems consolidate and expand at rapid rates,” Hyppolite testified to the House Appropriations Committee on Feb. 18. “And while communities and legislators were told that increased consolidation would lead to lower costs and improved care, the data tells us otherwise.”
The bill includes provisions that each hospital must report data elements identifying its revenues, expenses, contractual allowances, charity care, bad debt, other income, total units of inpatient and outpatient services, and other financial and employee compensation information.
Hyppolite said this kind of financial reporting comprehensively helps to hold healthcare providers accountable and focused on providing affordable and cost-efficient care, which she says is especially important for non-profit healthcare facilities that are exempt from certain taxes as part of a good-faith agreement that they will responsibly provide affordable care for their communities.
She said she suspects large healthcare systems that have shifted focus away from care quality and affordability in favor of financial gain will not be compelled to change until stats and data publicly show their failure.
“You need to be able to see what is going on to be able to fix it,” Hyppolite said.