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Trump Signs Executive Order on Healthcare Price Transparency

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday that he argued will allow patients to better shop for medical services, by requiring hospitals, insurers, and providers to share prices upfront.

Trump also said the increased transparency will help lower overall healthcare system costs.

“For too long it’s been virtually impossible for Americans to know the real price and quality of healthcare services … they receive. As a result, patients face significant obstacles shopping for the best care and the best price, driving up healthcare costs for everyone,” Trump said during a press briefing and signing.

“With today’s historic action, we are fundamentally changing the nature of the healthcare marketplace,” he said.

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar offered a rough sketch of the new executive order on a press call with reporters Monday, which includes five components:

  • Calling on HHS to publish a rule mandating that hospitals share prices “that reflect what patients and insurers actually pay” in an easy to understand format
  • Directing HHS to issue a proposal requiring healthcare providers and insurers to furnish information about the out-of-pocket costs patients will face, before patients receive healthcare service
  • Developing “a roadmap for consolidating quality measures across all federal healthcare programs,” in order to simplify the process of measuring care quality and “to better serve patients”
  • “Dramatically expanding access to de-identified healthcare claims data” while ensuring that patients’ privacy is protected, with the aim of helping researchers find ways to improve the healthcare system
  • Tasking the Department of the Treasury with finding ways to allow patients to leverage health savings accounts (HSAs) and other medical accounts, “including by expanding the range of services for which HSA dollars can be used”

Azar noted that the order would also require HHS to collaborate with other federal departments to develop new regulatory strategies to address “surprise billing” in ways that complement Congress’ legislative efforts and to identify other “barriers to price transparency and ‘shopability’ in healthcare.”

In early May, President Trump outlined principles he urged Congress to follow for the development of surprise billing legislation. On Wednesday, the Senate is expected to vote on a bipartisan bill focused on these issues.

When asked by reporters to expand on the requirement for hospitals to share prices with patients, a senior administration official said the details of that approach would be spelled out in a future proposed rule.

They also rejected criticism and complaints from insurers and hospitals that they are being unfairly compelled to disclose proprietary information.

Each time patients visit a hospital or doctor’s office, they receive a bill with an “explanation of benefits” detailing the list price for the service, the negotiated rate between insurers, and providers and the patients’ out-of-pocket cost. The executive order simply requires that an estimate of that information be required in advance, before services are rendered, the senior administration official said.

Monday’s announcement comes on the heels of similar efforts to enhance transparency around drug prices.