Saturday, 16 November 2019

Trump unveils new rules for health care, insurance price disclosures

The Trump administration issued new rules Friday to require insurers and hospitals to disclose upfront the prices for routine health care tests and procedures, aiming to lower costs.

Speaking at a White House event, President Trump said consumers have a right to know what health care services will cost beforehand, so they can shop around.

“Hospitals will soon be required to publish the price of everything from individual medical supplies to the total cost of common procedures,” the president said. “After many years, we will have transparency.”

The health care industry is promising a fight. A coalition of major hospital groups said it will go to court to block the rules, which would be phased in over about one year.

A final rule issued Friday would apply to hospitals, and a proposed regulation would apply to insurance plans. Disclosure requirements for hospitals would not take effect until 2021; for insurers, the timing is unclear. The requirements do not directly affect doctors.

The president said the rules will allow patients to find the best value for services that can vary wildly in price.

“For decades, hospitals, insurance companies, lobbyists, and special interests have hidden prices from consumers so they could drive up costs for you,” Mr. Trump said. “And you had no idea what was happening. You’d get bills that were unbelievable and you have no idea why. For example, researchers found that for the same MRI at the same hospital, patients were charged anywhere from $248 to $2,500. So, 10 times more, at the same hospital.”

He said sarcastically that insurance companies will “be thrilled” with price transparency for out-of-pocket costs and other information.

“American patients have been at the mercy of a shadowy system with little access to the information they need to make decisions about their own care,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said, pointing out that many hospital procedures are scheduled in advance, and that gives patients a chance to shop around.

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