Utahns won't benefit from an open-market health care system until they can shop around for the best deal on appendectomies, knee surgery and other medical needs, officials said.

Quinn McKay, head of the Health Care Cost Management Foundation - a coalition representing about 62,000 employees statewide - told Gov. Norm Bangerter Tuesday he supports creating a government agency to regularly publish hospital rates and financial information.Such an agency also has been recommended by the Governor's Task Force on Health Care Costs.

Quinn, however, said he hopes Utah's health care providers will agree to voluntarily release the information before the government steps in. He said the Utah Hospital Association has agreed to release some figures early next year.

"It's our policy to rely on the marketplace rather than on government regulation," he said during a brief meeting in Bangerter's office. "But it's not working. There are almost no price comparisons for employees."

Quinn said rising health care costs are partly responsible for the recent dramatic rise in insurance premiums. State employees alone expect a 35 percent increase in insurance rates.

He said 34 states so far have established some type of council to review and publish financial information from hospitals. Colorado publishes a study comparing the costs of 42 different medical procedures, he said.

"If you need a hernia operation, where do you go? You go where the doctor sends you," Quinn said. "Why don't you go to the least expensive hospital? No one knows which one that is. We think consumers need this information to make the best decision. Otherwise, there's no marketplace."

Bangerter, while opposed to government regulation, admitted there is a problem.

"I think we're flat out going to have to deal with this," he said. "I hate government regulation, but when things get out of control there's nowhere else to go."

Quinn said the foundation supports a proposed law requiring health care providers to disclose costs, but the group has agreed to back off from the bill until it sees whether the hospitals will voluntarily give the information.

The report from the governor's task force, released in September, noted widespread concern that health care costs too much and health insurance is difficult to obtain, and said there are anti-competitive practices and an apparent lack of competition in the health care market.