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Arizona law shines light on hospital prices, mirrors nationwide debate

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed legislation that requires physicians and hospitals to make public the price of their most commonly provided services.

The bill also requires the state’s health care finance agency to adopt a payment system that’s based on patients’ diagnoses instead how long they spend in the hospital.

“Today, Arizonans have little or no information about the actual cost of different medical procedures,” said Ms. Brewer, who also this week approved her state’s Medicaid expansion under President Obama’s health care law. “This common-sense legislation will make the price of health care services available to patients.”

The legislation out of Phoenix mirrors the high-profile national debate over the costs of common medical procedures.

Last month, the Obama administration released a massive trove of hospital billing data that revealed significant variations in what providers charged Medicare for the same in-patient services.

An influential Time magazine survey by Stephen Brill argued that price-setting on hospitals’ fee schedules, or “charge masters,” was inscrutable and detached from actual costs.

Mr. Obama and his allies are touting the new health care law ahead of key implementation dates this fall. On Thursday, they said provision of the law helped Americans save nearly $4 billion by requiring that 80 percent of premium costs go toward patient care.

Republicans and other opponents of the law say the reforms should be replaced by more consumer-oriented reforms with less government intrusion into the health care system.

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