Billing transparency a wise move

Thumbs-up to transparency in medical costs.

A report in last week’s N’West Iowa REVIEW explained how people are learning more about what they are paying and why when they receive medical care. The 2019 Inpatient and Long-Term Care Hospital Prospective Payment System requirement set forth by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services became federal law on Jan. 1, mandating disclosure of much of the costs incurred when we seek medical assistance.

Is it perfect? No, of course not. As N’West Iowa hospital administrators explained, it’s difficult to compare each medical case, individual patient and path of treatment. But this does offer useful information.

Johnny Tureaud, director of patient access and financial services for Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City, which operates Baum Harmon Mercy Hospital in Primghar, said it’s a complex issue.

“On the one hand, I believe it is important for consumers to have information related to the costs of the health-care services they receive,” Tureaud said. “However, it can often be difficult and confusing for someone not familiar with health-care billing and insurance coverage to determine their actual ‘out-of-pocket’ cost.”

Hawarden Regional Healthcare director of finance and compliance officer Jessica Hughes said the facility plans to implement a patient liability estimator on its website this month that will provide an estimate of out-of-pocket expenses.

Hughes said the hospital had always tried to be open, but this new law “forces our hand to do more. This isn’t a bad thing.”

That’s a positive attitude and an encouraging sign. Openness is always the best option.

Thumbs-up to voters in the Sioux Center School District, who once again showed strong support for education, their community and their future.

The district received funding approval for a new high school on Tuesday as voters overwhelmingly backed a $24.9 million special obligation bond request, with 76.4 percent support. It needed a solid showing of 60 percent, but Sioux Center School District voters raced past that. They know the school is needed, and that’s a testament to an effective education campaign by the district and bond supporters.

The district has $14.7 million set aside for the $39.6 million school. It chose to ask patrons for their backing — and their money — to complete the task. The sweeping victory shows the district has that support.

“We are very grateful for the support and look forward to this project and what it will provide for our community,” said district superintendent Gary McEldowney. “Thank you for taking the time to vote in the election and thank you for your continued support of education.”

Thumbs-up to caution in the cold.

Severe weather in the winter is just part of life in Iowa. Just as we accept the bountiful harvest from our green fields after another good year, the sweet breezes of summer and the crisp pleasures of a fall afternoon, we have to accept the bitter wind and icy days of winter. They come as a package.

We appreciate the wise decisions made by schools, colleges and businesses during the recent epic cold. Public schools, private colleges and businesses shut their doors and advised students, staff and customers to remain home, where it was safe and warm. Those were the right choices.

Sure, some will roll their eyes and talk of walking two miles uphill in the snow to school — both ways, somehow — while mercury drained from the bottom of the thermometer. All we can do is pat them on the back and congratulate them on their hardy natures. But we respect superintendents and business owners who realize 40-below-zero wind chill, icy roads and dangerous conditions are nothing to laugh about. We face a few more weeks of winter, and similar choices may need to be made.

Safety first, stories last. Stay safe, folks.

Thumbs-up to the weather forecast of a small rodent.

Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow on April 2, according to the groundhog interpreters at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, PA. That means an early spring, and while Phil’s track record can be as accurate as the presidential pollsters who told Hillary Clinton to start measuring the drapes in the Oval Office, we will trust the veteran prognosticator.

Here’s to a welcome return to warmer days, which also could mean a good start for farmers, who are eager to get into their fields, and make it easier on animals, especially newborns. It also would reduce heating costs for homes and businesses, get visitors on the roads earlier and generally put a bounce in everyone’s step.

So, we choose to believe in Phil.