Nevada Consumers Benefit from Health Care Laws

Nevada will give consumers better insight into hospitals' quality of care and the cost of treatment, under a new law that took effect on Sunday.

Other new health-related laws call for research on stem cells, an effort that could make Nevada a medical tourism destination; and offer residents a safe place to file their last wishes, such as withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, says Nevada is part of a
national trend to require hospitals to submit information on the quality and cost of care to the state. By 2009, that information will be available on a Web site.

"This is probably the most important health policy legislation in terms of potential impact we passed during the session," Leslie said.

The Nevada Hospital Association already supplies much of the information, including prices, on its own Web site. But what's not yet on the Internet is information on quality of care.

The new law requires hospitals to report, among other things, patients' average length of stay, the average charge for the 50 most frequent diagnosed illnesses and ways in which they try to speed patients' recovery.

Under the stem cell legislation, lawmakers' staffers will report on how placing stem cells in individuals might cure currently incurable diseases. The new law's sponsor, Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, said the research could establish Nevada as a national leader in the field.

"It would be great for medical tourism from all over the world," Schneider said.

Another bill that becomes law deals with the last wishes of a person who does not wish to receive extraordinary medical attention to remain alive.

Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, sponsored the legislation to require the secretary of state's office to set up a registry "of advanced directives for health care," including instructions on the withholding or withdrawing of life-sustaining treatment.

The Legislature authorized $200,000 for the program. Individuals can be charged fees for filing the documents.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)