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Press release
June 24, 2019

Statement: White House’s Action on Health Care Pricing Transparency Underscores the Need for Consumers, Policy Makers, and Others to Have Information on Health Care Costs

Washington, D.C. – Families USA executive director Frederick Isasi released the following statement regarding the White House’s executive order on health care pricing transparency.

“To lower health care costs and improve quality, Families USA encourages efforts to improve the transparency of health care cost information, such as those outlined in President Trump’s executive order. In every other industry, consumers know the cost of goods or services before purchasing; the same should be true of the costs of health care services. As part of our existing and new initiatives such as Consumers First—a consumer-driven alliance working to change the fundamental economic incentives and design of the health care system—we are working across the aisle on Capitol Hill and with the Administration to achieve such goals.

Several of the main points expressed in today’s executive order could be potentially promising first-steps toward improving the value of health care. For example, expanding access to health care data is helpful, but only if doing so includes the price paid for care and combines this with information about quality, including outcomes. And provisions within the executive order requiring disclosure of hospital “charges” likely will only serve to confuse consumers as charges have little relationship to the actual prices paid.

For far too long, healthcare pricing information has been unavailable to researchers, policy makers and consumers. This leads to terrible waste, out of control costs and poor health outcomes.

However, there is an irony with the Trump Administration release of this executive order. That is, so much of the President’s work on health care has been to undermine key policies aimed at making the health care system more affordable for families. For example, the President has allowed insurance companies to again sell junk insurance that can leave unsuspecting families paying thousands of dollars for uncovered care. The Administration also has disavowed protections for people with pre-existing conditions and walked away from defending such protections in federal law in the Texas vs US lawsuit. And, the President is currently supporting policies that make it much harder for families to receive and enroll in Medicaid.

But, we are concerned that the main benefits of this executive order may not come to fruition. First, it is unclear how aggressively HHS will work to implement the order. Second, it’s unclear under what statutory or constitutional authority the president has issued this order. Executive orders can be challenged in court, which is almost a certainty given the outcry from providers and insurers about releasing pricing information.

New reporting requirements in the Lower Health Care Costs Act being marked-up in the Senate HELP committee as well as other legislation being considered in Congress can create the legal authority needed to ensure that the collection and sharing of pricing information can stand-up to a legal challenge.

Developing a system that responsibly brings together information about pricing, quality of care, and outcomes is critical to improving the health and health care of all our nation’s families.”

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