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Senate revives vetoed medical care pricing bill

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Senate voted Monday to revive the major provisions of a medical pricing transparency bill that was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer just last week.

Senate Bill 1115 by Republican Sen. Nancy Barto would have required health care providers to post prices for common medical procedures. Brewer said in a veto letter on Friday that it was overly broad and could lead to litigation and impair the state medical board's ability to investigate medical billing abuses. She also said it should not apply to state, federal and tribal facilities.

The bill was opposed by the health care industry and Democrats in the Legislature.

Barto amended another health bill on the Senate floor Monday to add the language from the vetoed bill. She excluded the facilities named by Brewer and says she thinks the changes address Brewer's concerns.

``I think we're going to be able to secure her support,'' Barto said. ``I think she wants to support this bill, and I think with these changes she'll be fine.''

The amended bill is House Bill 2045. It establishes a new formula for the state's Medicaid program to determine hospital reimbursements.

The veto was seen by some as an effort by Brewer to send a message to Barto, who is an opponent of the governor's proposal to expand the state's Medicaid program to an additional 300,000 low-income Arizonans under provision of President Barack Obama's health care reform law. The Legislature must approve the expansion.

Barto said Monday that she's still opposed to the Medicaid expansion.

``I don't think the state ought to be moving in this direction in such a sweeping way, I think we should stay within our budget- so no,'' she said.

But she said she doesn't believe the veto was retaliatory, and that she's talked with the governor's staff about the veto and believes she will have the governor's support now.

``I don't think that she's playing games,'' Barto said. ``I think she'd be foolish to play games with good policy bills that she should be supporting as a free market Republican.''

Brewer's spokesman, Matthew Benson, said the governor generally supports transparency in health care pricing and her staff has spoken with Barto about reviving the vetoed bill. But Benson said she would have to examine the specific legislation before decided whether or not to sign the bill.

The vetoed bill would have required doctors and hospitals to provide or post online direct-pay prices for the 25 most common procedures, among other provisions.

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