And in new twist, the administration is also proposing to require most health plans that Americans get through their jobs to disclose the rates they negotiate with hospitals and doctors in their insurance network, as well as the amounts paid to doctors out-of-network.
Taken together, the pair of actions — one a final rule, the other in draft form — is part of President Trump’s electoral strategy for 2020, calculating that voters will be attracted to policies that equip them with information to help choose health services that are more affordable.
The president t is trying to capitalize on polling that shows health care ranks among Americans’ leading domestic concerns, with consumers looking to government especially to ease the burden of escalating out-of-pocket costs.
The hospital industry has been vowing for months to sue to try to block the hospital rate rule finalized on Friday. But top Trump officials heralded the regulation as what Health and Human Services Alex Azar termed “revolutionary changes for our health care sy. ..President Trump has promised patients “A+ health care transparency, but right now our system probably deserves an F.”
The issue of “transparency” in health-care has been a drumbeat for the White House and Trump’s top health advisers for much of this year. In May, administration officials made clear they were developing an executive order on the issue. In late June, the president held a signing ceremony in the White House’s grand foyer to affix his signature to the order.
“We are fundamentally changing the nature of the health-care marketplace,” Trump declared that day. “This is a truly big action. People have no idea how big it is. Some people say bigger than health care itself.”
That executive order directed HHS and two other federal agencies to develop new transparency regulations, the most controversial part of which is the disclosure of negotiated rates that always have been secret. Friday’s pair of rules flow from the order.
Months before the specifics materialized, the hospital and insurance industries have been railing against the direction. A coalition of hospitals has vowed to sue in federal court to try to block the requirements, which they contend go beyond the executive branch’s authority, violate the First Amendment and improperly compel the revelation of trade secrets.
Hospitals and insurers contend that disclosing their private negotiations would be counterproductive and predict it would have the perverse effect of driving up prices.
Among a raft of negative comments submitted to health officials as part of the rule-making process, America’s Health Insurance Plans — the industry’s main trade group — wrote that “forced disclosure of privately and competitively-negotiated rates… .will not provide information that is actionable by, or helpful to, consumers. It will hamper competitive negotiations and push health care prices higher – not lower – for patients, consumers, and taxpayers.”