COLUMBUS - 

Accusing Gov. John Kasich of “engaging in Putin-like rule” to overturn a state law on health-care price transparency, the law’s sponsor wants the attorney general to hire outside counsel to defend the state against an industry lawsuit.


In December, groups including the Ohio Hospital Association and the Ohio State Medical Association filed suit to block a law passed in June 2015 that was hailed by supporters as one of Ohio's broadest and most meaningful advances in health-care-cost transparency.


But doctors, hospitals and other health-care providers say the law, which was added to the unrelated Bureau of Workers’ Compensation budget bill, will actually create bureaucratic nightmares for non-emergency services.


The law was to take effect Jan. 1, but Williams County Common Pleas Judge J.T. Stelzer issued a 30-day temporary restraining order. A hearing on a preliminary injunction is set for Jan. 20.


Attorney General Mike DeWine appointed a pair of in-office attorneys to handle the case for the state and Kasich. But Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, a prime sponsor of the law, urged DeWine to instead hire outside special counsel because Kasich doesn't support the law.


“Because the Kasich administration has the same goals and intent as the health-care industry plaintiffs, the interests of the Kasich administration and the people of the state of Ohio are not aligned," Butler wrote to DeWine. “Accordingly, a fundamental conflict of interest exists.”


Butler noted that Kasich’s Department of Medicaid was supposed to draft rules for the price transparency law by July 1, but did not and continues to “refuse to follow or enforce the law.” He said Kasich’s office also pushed last month for a bill to delay the effective date of the law for six months.


Butler also said “sources” told him that Kasich helped coordinate the lawsuit and plans to agree to permanently enjoin the law, “effectively erasing it from the books without an act of the Ohio General Assembly.”


“Gov. Kasich’s actions and plans stand heavy on our fragile democratic traditions,” Butler wrote, “They are being done purely to benefit one of the most powerful lobbies in the country.”


Under the law, a patient could get, upon request, a good-faith estimate of a total cost of a non-emergency medical procedure and how much insurance would cover. If Kasich is successful in coordinating with health-care providers to block the law, Butler said, “what is to stop him or future governors from doing the same thing and essentially engaging in Putin-like rule by decree, without the legislature?”


Kasich spokeswoman Connie Luck said Butler “doesn’t have the facts.”


“Our administration supports price transparency, and we have made good-faith efforts to find a path forward,” she said. “We certainly wish the differences between Rep. Butler and other interested parties would have been corrected through legislative rather than legal means. But when facing a legal challenge, we will always act in the best interest of Ohioans.”


Citing the pending litigation, Luck declined comment on why rules for the law have not been completed. Health-care groups have raised concerns that they cannot comply with the law.


“This flawed law invites confusion for all stakeholders and would result in provider non-compliance and delays in patient care,” said Mike Abrams, president of the Ohio Hospital Association.


Medical Association President Dr. Brian Bachelder said physicians favor providing clear estimates for medical services, but the law “may actually diminish a patient’s opportunity to secure high-quality, value-based medical care.”


Butler said he is willing to support clarifications to the law, but argues that hospitals and doctors want to provide costs for only a handful of the services that must be scheduled seven days in advance.


The Hospital Association says it has worked for 18 months to amend the law, without success.


Click to see original Dispatch story by Jim Siegel

 
 
 
  
Featured Posts