FILE - Georgia state capitol building

Georgia state Capitol building in Atlanta

The Georgia Senate voted Tuesday in favor of the Georgia Right to Shop Act, which gives patients a chance to choose medical providers based on affordability.

The bill would require insurance companies to create a webpage or toll-free phone number where patients could compare rates, see the average amount for particular services, estimate out-of-pocket costs and access quality metrics.

“So we're working in conjunction, not only with cost but also in quality, making that transparency,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ben Watson, R–Savannah. “Because we know that if we drive quality, we drive cost.”

Quality metrics could include infection reports or remissions, Watson said during a committee review.

More than 18 states have proposed right-to-shop legislation since 2018. In November, the Trump Administration proposed federal rules that would require medical providers to make their prices public. President Donald Trump also proposed an executive order in June that germinated into the rules.

Proponents of the policy say it allows consumers to take control of their health-care costs, and it can save the state millions of dollars. 

The average out-of-pocket health cost for Georgia workers is higher than the national average. Employer-based plans can cost Georgians about 14 percent of their work income, according to state officials.

The database also will help patients compare out-of-pocket costs and avoid any unexpected medical charges, often referred to as surprise bills.

The Senate voted 51-1 in favor of the bill – Senate Bill 303 – with Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D–Democrat, voting against it. The bill now will move on to the House. 

Right-to-shop legislation was an idea recommended in the the Taskforce on Healthcare Access and Cost, led by Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan. 

Duncan applauded the House's decision Tuesday afternoon.

“Georgia has taken huge steps toward being a leader in the field of health care,” Duncan said. “I am proud of the work the Senate has done this week to pass Georgia’s Right to Shop Act. I want to thank Chairman Ben Watson for his leadership on this legislation and also the distinguished and diverse group of individuals who served on the Taskforce on Healthcare Access and Cost.”

– The Center Square