Legislation aimed at barring nondisclosure agreements that are used to block release to the public of certain consumer or even governmental information got their first hearings this week. SB 1300 by Senator Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) was amended in the Senate Health Committee in the face of strong opposition from the California Hospital Association and similar health care provider alliances.  The bill was originally worded to prohibit a contract between a health care provider and a health care service plan or a health insurer from containing a provision that restricts the ability of the provider to furnish health care pricing or health care quality information to subscribers, enrollees, or insureds of the plan or insurer.  The amendment removes the provider from this prohibition and now affects only the health plan or insurer. According to the committee analysis, Corbett says the reason for the bill is to

allow health consumers to save money by allowing them to receive the  information they need in order to shop for health care  services.  She notes that an increasing number of consumers are in PPO plans, which often include sizeable deductibles and coinsurance requirements.  Since consumers must pay a portion or all of the cost of a given service  out-of-pocket under these plans, she argues that it is in consumers’ interest to determine the cost of a given procedure or service before they undergo the procedure, as  well as, determining which providers have the most favorable outcomes for the procedure.

Meanwhile the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Corbett, passed SB 1696  by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), which would provide that:

  • a state or local agency may not by confidentiality agreement or other contract make information confidential or disclosable only with permission of the other party to the contract, if that information is otherwise subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act; and that
  • any contract entered into by a state or local agency subject to the Act, including the University of California, that requires a private entity to review, audit, or report on any aspect of that agency is public and subject to disclosure under the Act.

The bill was prompted by the experience of the San Francisco Chronicle, whose request for a copy of a program audit report from the University of California was met by a denial on the basis that, according to the California Newspaper Publishers Association, “the contract between UC and the auditor required the auditor’s consent before the report could be shared and the auditor refused to provide its consent.”