Voters Agree: Reform is needed for price transparency
- BY Robin Walker
The bureaucratic medical-industrial complex of hospitals, insurers, and pharmaceutical companies have long been major players in health care policy decisions on Capitol Hill. In their short-sighted pursuit of power and record-breaking profits, these special interests have forced Americans to endure generations of crippling medical bills, reduced coverage, and limited access to care.
In 2016, Americans had had enough and responded by demanding an outsider candidate who would stand up with the courage to take on the health care establishment.
President Trump’s administration answered the call and has taken several policy actions to “drain the swamp” in Washington, and they have made no exceptions for health care. Whether it’s eliminating the disastrous ObamaCare individual mandate fine and supporting its repeal or lowering the price of insulin for seniors, the administration has been working to put patients back in the driver’s seat by giving them affordable options and allowing them to make important health care decisions for themselves.
The fight to lower health care costs has been hard fought and is far from over. A decade after ObamaCare passed—along with all the empty promises attached to it—it is still punishing patients with high insurance premiums, limited choices, and mysteriously priced procedures that shock the conscience when the bill arrives in the mail. Health care is one of the only industries that surprises its customers with the final bill after the procedure is performed. Nearly 67 percent of bankruptcies in the U.S. are due to medical debt. Patients and their families deserve better.
With the unique challenges brought on by COVID-19, the burden of unexpected medical bills has become even greater. For some, having the ability to shop around for non-emergency medical procedures could mean the difference between paying the rent that month or not. The need for price transparency is urgent, and President Trump’s leadership on this issue will save both lives and household budgets.
The president’s America First Healthcare Plan proposal builds on previous actions by enhancing patients’ right to shop around and compare costs between providers before receiving care. It cracks down on so-called surprise medical bills and complements previous rules that require hospitals to provide the real-time prices of non-emergency services and requires health networks to disclose their secretly negotiated pricing for insured patients.
Ending the secretive smoke-filled-back-room pricing game used by hospitals and insurers to capitalize on unsuspecting patients demonstrates the president’s commitment to putting Americans first when it comes to health care. Polling has repeatedly shown the fear of an unexpected bill—regardless of the amount of that bill—remains a top health care concern for Americans.
A recent poll by the Foundation for Government Accountability shows more than 80 percent of Americans support giving patients the ability to know what their actual out-of-pocket costs will be at least 72 hours ahead of time for a non-emergency services. They want providers to be required to stick to that cost estimate – and they should be held accountable if they don’t.
More than 80 percent of Americans also agree this reform would help patients compare costs of care between different doctors and health care facilities to find high quality options for the best price.
This same poll also shows nearly 80 percent of Americans support health care price transparency as a way to help charitable hospitals keep their doors open to serve low-income families. And more than 80 percent of Americans see it as a valuable tool for the same low-income and vulnerable patients who are seeking out affordable preventative health care.
And if you didn’t think it could get much better, more than 80 percent of Americans support price transparency as a way to make regular health care check-ups for seniors more affordable. This isn’t a partisan issue. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all are in favor of more price transparency when it comes to shopping for health care. It’s good policy and it’s popular—and it’s time to make it happen.
Congress is currently considering its year-end priorities, and it’s important that surprise billing legislation like Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana’s PRICE Transparency Act be a part of that package to shine more light on health care prices.
More price transparency in health care informs decision-making and fosters competition in the medical marketplace. For patients, that means more control over their care with more affordable and predictable prices. It also means that families nationwide can rest assured that the days of receiving unexpected, heart-stopping medical bills in the mail months after receiving a scheduled treatment are over.
The time of reckoning has arrived for the back-room mobsters of the health care industry who, for too long, have dictated high prices and tacked on questionable extra fees after the date of service. We finally have a president willing to fight to put patients back in the driver’s seat of their health care decisions—a reality that may leave the hospitals, insurers, and pharmaceutical companies the most surprised of all.