Health

Trump Outlines Goals for Healthcare Price Transparency

WASHINGTON — President Donald J. Trump on Monday signed an executive order that outlines goals for federal agencies to carry out actions to make the costs of healthcare more transparent to consumers.

The executive order signals to industry groups that healthcare costs remain a chief domestic concern for Trump. Democrats seeking to challenge him in 2020 will hold their first debates later this week, during which they may hash out their competing ideas for lowering Americans’ medical costs. Healthcare is expected to be a dominant theme in the 2020 presidential contest.

According to the summaries provided by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the White House, the executive order directs HHS to take steps to require hospitals to publicly disclose amounts that reflect what people actually pay for services in an easy-to-read format.

It also tells HHS to put forth a proposal to provide patients with information about the out-of-pocket costs they’ll face before they receive healthcare services.

Additionally, the executive order calls for the administration to lay out a roadmap for consolidating quality measures across federal healthcare programs.

The plan calls for the administration to give researchers more information about healthcare spending by de-identifying claims data.

It also directs the Treasury to expand consumers’ ability to take advantage of health savings accounts (HSAs), which have long been popular with Republican lawmakers. The order requires HHS to work with other departments to determine steps it can take to address surprise medical billing, intended to supplement work underway in Congress, according to summaries provided to the press.

“Just the Beginning”

On Capitol Hill, members of congressional committees have been working on bipartisan legislation to end surprise medical billing.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee has been working on a package that is intended to end the practice of surprise billing and create more transparency. Senate HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said he and Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the committee’s ranking Democrat, have been working in parallel with their counterparts on the Finance Committee.

In the House of Representatives, the Energy and Commerce; Ways and Means; and Judiciary committees have recently put forward bipartisan bills to lower the cost of prescription drugs, Alexander said in a statement.

Industry trade groups already have raised questions about how the Trump administration will proceed with its plan for greater transparency about healthcare costs. In a statement Monday, Matt Eyles, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), described Trump’s executive order as “just the beginning of an extended process” for reining in healthcare costs.

“We also agree that patients should have accurate, real-time information about costs so they can make the best, most informed decisions about their care,” Eyles said. “But publicly disclosing competitively negotiated, proprietary rates will reduce competition and push prices higher — not lower — for consumers, patients, and taxpayers.”

Disclosing privately negotiated rates would reduce incentives to offer lower rates, “creating a floor — not a ceiling — for the prices that hospitals would be willing to accept,” Eyles said.

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