White House preparing executive order on health care cost disclosure

by WorldTribune Staff, May 26, 2019

President Donald Trump could, within the next week, issue an executive order mandating the disclosure of prices in the health-care industry, a May 24 report said.

The order could direct federal agencies to pursue actions to force a host of players in the industry to divulge cost data in an industry that has long been accustomed to transacting in private, people familiar with discussion on the issue told the Wall Street Journal.

Ballad Health Hospital in Johnson City, TN. / Roanoke Times

The Trump administration is also looking at using agencies such as the Department of Justice to tackle regional monopolies of hospitals and health-insurance plans over concerns they are driving up the cost of care, the sources told the Journal.

The consolidation of hospitals in southwest Virginia and East Tennessee under Ballad Health is one example of a trend that has led to controversy and social media scrutiny with few clear answers on cost benefits to consumers.

Trump’s action, officials said, would lower health-care costs by giving consumers and employers data for the first time on the discounted and negotiated rates between insurers, hospitals, doctors and other providers.

Trump’s move “would represent a new front in an attack on high health-care costs. Both the White House and a growing number of members of Congress are targeting the industry, saying consumers and employers will benefit if the secrecy around prices is peeled back,” Stephanie Armour wrote for the Journal.

The report said that health care industry groups are “mobilizing to derail the efforts that could extend to hospitals, doctors, and insurers in the private employer market.”

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the administration has been considering issuing a Labor Department rule to force insurers to publicize the negotiated rates they pay for services.

The Department of Health and Human Services has also sought public comment on whether patients have a right to see the discounted prices in advance of obtaining care. The first-of-a-kind proposal could force doctors and hospitals to publicly share the negotiated and often discounted amounts they charge insurers.

Critics of the move say the administration could be overreaching if it believes the Labor Department has the authority to mandate the disclosure of insurers’ negotiated rates with providers.

About 158 million people get their health insurance in the private employer market.

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