Who said President Donald Trump didn't have a health plan?
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is implementing the president’s healthcare agenda and improving the way health-insurance companies operate by requiring more price transparency. This will likely prove to be the most effective health care reform ever enacted.
“We want every American to be able to work with their doctor to decide on the healthcare that makes sense for them, and those conversations can’t take place in a shadowy system where prices are hidden,” he said when announcing the recent rule change that will change health care for virtually all Americans, and change it for the better.
The finalized rule change requires private health insurers to disclose in real-time and prior to treatment the cost of medical services. Effectively, the rule requires insurers to put a price tag on medical services so consumers can shop around and plan accordingly.
The rule also requires private insurers to disclose the exact dollar amount they pay healthcare providers for specific services. Consumers can then gauge whether they’re being charged too much for a particular procedure or treatment and look elsewhere.
As Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia says, “American workers in employer-sponsored health plans will now have access to real-time, personalized cost-sharing information that empowers them to shop and compare costs between specific providers before receiving care.”
Implementing price transparency, moreover, will relieve pressure from the many Americans who have been financially hurt by COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, 39 percent of nonelderly, insured Americans had received a surprise medical bill, and 22 percent were scared to go to the doctor because they didn’t think they could afford it.
Timothy Regan's story shows why many Americans are afraid to seek care even during a global pandemic. Mr. Regan went to the ER after experiencing coronavirus symptoms but, instead of receiving a COVID-19 test, he underwent a regime of unrelated diagnostic tests. Because he never took a COVID-19 test, his insurance company tried to deny him coverage and left him with a bill for $3,200.
Forcing insurers and hospitals to tell patients how much treatment costs will alleviate these types of worries and drive down prices by increasing competition. Americans should feel they can go to the hospital when they need care, and we should encourage people to get tested, not hit them with surprise bills.
No one goes to the Apple Store to buy an iPhone without finding out how much the phone and its contract cost. If a company like Apple doesn't reveal its prices, it would soon go out of business. Price tags exist when we buy a phone or eat out; there is no reason this same basic principle shouldn’t apply when Americans shop for healthcare.
Empirical research shows price transparency could save the average family approximately $11,000 annually and cut healthcare costs by around 40 percent. Insurers and hospitals would have to compete with each other to offer the lowest prices. If a patient is being charged thousands for routine tests, like an MRI, they could go elsewhere and receive the same care for less.
These savings would boost our economy while we recover from COVID-19. The esteemed economist Arthur Laffer argues, “the rules will unleash a real market in healthcare, usher in competition and choice, dramatically lowering the costs of care and coverage. Fewer dollars going to health care and more going to wages, jobs and small businesses in our local communities will help boost our nation’s economic recovery.”
Secretary Azar has helped President Trump achieve a huge victory for the American people. Implementing price transparency will save families thousands of dollars and bring free-market forces to bear on healthcare. This reform couldn't be more timely and wouldn't have been possible without Secretary Azar's relentless effort.
Ken Blackwell is a Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance, at the Family Research Council. He is a member of the board directors of the Club For Growth.