In a small move that could have big consequences for healthcare pricing, South Dakota passed a law requiring hospitals to post pricing for their 25 most common procedures to a state website. The hospital must perform at least 10 of the procedures for it to qualify. The law only specifies a spring-time deadline, leaving some confused about when prices must actually be available.

Implementation details aside, the measure brings a dose of price comparison capability to an area where, from the consumer’s perspective, it is sorely lacking. If the initiative is successful, expect other states to copy it, and insurance companies to alter provider networks to steer people (even more) to low cost providers for certain procedures.

Ed– A similar law will go into effect in California on January 1, 2006.

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