Trump moves to make healthcare costs more transparent

June 27, 2019

President Donald Trump issued an executive order requiring transparency in healthcare prices, a move he hopes will drive down costs by helping consumers make informed choices. 

President Donald Trump issued an executive order requiring transparency in healthcare prices, a move he hopes will drive down costs by helping consumers make informed choices.

“Patients often lack both access to useful price and quality information and the incentives to find low-cost, high-quality care,” Trumps said in the executive order. “Opaque pricing structures may benefit powerful special interest groups, such as large hospital systems and insurance companies, but they generally leave patients and taxpayers worse off than would a more transparent system.”

He notes that improving transparency in healthcare will also protect patients from surprise billing, which occurs when patients receive unexpected bills at highly inflated prices from out-of-network providers they had no opportunity to select in advance.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will issue a rule that oversees the efforts, but the executive order contains no details of how prices will be posted. The order only says it will be done in such a way that is easy to understand, consumer-friendly and in a machine-readable format using consensus-based data standards that will help patients make informed choices. Hospitals will also be required to regularly update posted information.

“Making meaningful price and quality information more broadly available to more Americans will protect patients and increase competition, innovation, and value in the healthcare system,” Trump said in the order.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) supports the objectives of the order, as long as its implemented in a way that does not impose impractical or excessive administrative burdens on clinicians, practices, and healthcare facilities in disclosing price data to patients.

“ACP is hopeful that the executive order will not only increase transparency in healthcare costs, but will help patients better access affordable, quality care by holding the U.S. healthcare system accountable,” Robert McLean, MD, FACP, president of ACP, said in a statement.

Rick Pollack, CEO of the American Hospital Association, said in a statement that while the organization appreciates the effort to promote transparency on price and quality, there are some concerns. “Hospitals already provide consumers with information on pricing, but publicly posting privately negotiated rates could, in fact, undermine the competitive forces of private market dynamics, and result in increased prices,” Pollack said.

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