President Donald Trump has signed an executive order mandating that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issue two rules within 60 days requiring hospitals to publicize the rates they negotiate with insurers for common medical procedures. Hospitals also will be required to share the rates with patients in advance.
Although the mandate that hospitals and doctors publicly post their prices went into effect earlier this year, it doesn't force the disclosure of insurer discounts, which could encourage hospitals to ask more from an insurer to match what competitors receive. The order also requires federal agencies to hold providers and insurers accountable for giving patients total cost information upfront, enabling consumers to make informed decisions.
Industry groups are organizing resistance, saying the order is unspecific about how aggressive the administration will be in enforcing the rules. "This is their effort to come up with a health care agenda for 2020," said Tom Nickels of the American Hospital Association, which opposes the plan. Part of the political debate is over whether to expand the government's role in health care to control prices or to empower free markets by exposing rates and increasing competition.