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Senate Health Care Bill Online Disclosure Provisions

November 19, 2009 - by Paul Blumenthal

The Senate health care reform bill (viewable here) contains numerous provisions that stress disclosure and transparency, specifically online disclosure and transparency. These provisions acknowledge that information that is meant to be disclosed and available to the public must be made available online. The bill contains sixty-six uses of the word “Internet,” almost entirely to refer to the online disclosure of information meant for public viewing. The acceptance that disclosure must be made online shows the continued understanding that the Internet is the venue to create trust and accountability.

The Department of Health and Human Services would be required to post nearly every report filed with the Department online. These reports range from information ensuring the quality of care provided by insurers to information meant to control premium increases. The various Internet disclosure provisions include new information on hospitals, hospice care and long term care facilities. New web sites would be created to provide information on affordable health care options and for the State administered health care exchanges.

Health and Human Services would be tasked with creating an Internet portal template for state administered health care exchanges. The web site template would provide information for individuals and employers to help them determine their eligibility for the exchange. The web site would also be required to present standardized information on the plans made available in the exchange including a rating to inform users to the basis of the relative quality and price of each plan offered.

Another of the bill’s Internet disclosure targets is affordable coverage. The bill tasks Health and Human Services with creating a web site to provide information on affordable coverage in each state. The provisions targets specific types of coverage for this disclosure including private coverage that is not limited to reimbursement for any one disease or condition or an “unreasonably limited” number of diseases and conditions. Other coverage options that must be disclosed and shown to be affordable on this web site include some Medicaid coverage and coverage under S-CHIP. The web site will also include standardized information on each plan including premium rates, cost sharing, premium revenue expended on non-clinical costs, eligibility and availability.

The bill also targets health insurers with a disclosure provision. The bill aims to control what it calls “unreasonable” premium increases by requiring insurers to provide a justification for such increases prior to the implementation of the increase. The justification must be made to the Department of Health and Human Services and simultaneously posted to the insurers web site in a prominent manner that the public can see.

The word “Internet” is also used in some instances to refer to public education campaigns on prevention efforts and bridging cultural divides on health care understanding. One piece of the prevention education campaign is the creation of an online tool for individuals to judge their disease-risk and see suggestions to reduce their risk.

(h/t to my colleague John Wonderlich for his tweeted suggestion to “do a Find in Page for internet in the healthcare bill.”)

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