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Trump order pushes for disclosure of secret health care prices

John Tozzi and Shannon Pettypiece, Bloomberg News on

Published in Health & Fitness

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump called for hospitals to disclose to patients up front how much they charge for tests, surgeries and other procedures, in an executive order he signed Monday.

The federal regulations Trump is calling for push forward a relatively simple idea: that patients should know how much hospitals charge for common procedures. Those prices are typically trade secrets between hospitals and the insurers they negotiate with.

The administration also wants to make medical providers and insurers give their patients estimates of out-of-pocket costs before they get care.

"We're fundamentally changing the nature of the health care marketplace," Trump said at the White House on Monday. "Prices will come down by numbers you can't even believe."

Details of the executive order were described earlier by Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, whose department will draft the regulations. The changes are likely to face significant pushback from the health care industry.

"Every day, American patients are being taken advantage of by a system that hides critical information from them," Azar said on a conference call with reporters.

 

The health insurance industry's main trade group said the plan will backfire. "Publicly disclosing competitively negotiated, proprietary rates will reduce competition and push prices higher -- not lower -- for consumers, patients and taxpayers," Matt Eyles, president and chief executive officer of America's Health Insurance Plans, said in an emailed statement.

Eyles said the industry supports giving patients accurate information about their costs, but publishing negotiated rates would create "a floor -- not a ceiling -- for the prices that hospitals would be willing to accept."

The Trump administration has advocated for bringing down health care costs by making prices more visible, boosting competition and reducing regulation. Trump has also called on Congress to pass legislation to stop surprise billing, while major pharmaceutical companies are revealing drug prices online in a bid to stave off pressure from the administration.

Many health care prices are veiled behind contracts between hospitals and insurers. Employers and patients have complained that such secrecy keeps prices high and makes it harder for employers and individuals to shop for services.

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