Hospital associations and health care lobbyists threw everything but a good argument at a judge who this week ruled a Trump administration plan for transparency in hospital pricing should move forward.
U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols rejected the ideas that the hospitals, insurance companies and even consumers would somehow be harmed by Americans seeing the real prices of services and health care, as they do with everything else they buy.
The American Hospital Association vowed to appeal the ruling, which Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar called a “resounding victory” and about which President Donald Trump tweeted “Congratulations America.”
Cynthia Fisher, founder of PatientRightsAdvocate.org, called the ruling a victory for patients as it will demystify health care and most believe seeing prices will lower costs.
Insurance companies also opposed the Trump plan, arguing that if some health care providers see other providers are getting higher insurance payments for their services, they too will want higher payments.
In the real world, that’s called capitalism. And it shouldn’t be outlawed anytime soon by powerful interests of the health care/hospital/insurance industrial complex.
The hospital association argued the Trump plan to require prices for 300 common procedures be posted online amounted to “coercion,” and that prices would actually go up due to higher reporting expenses.
And while patient advocates say the COVID pandemic has made it even more important to have transparency in prices, hospitals argue COVID expenses will make it more difficult to pay for price reporting.
America’s Health Insurance Plans said the ruling would not make it easier for consumers to choose health care, would reduce competition, raise prices and reduce affordability.
We say balderdash to these arguments.
The Trump plan calls for hospitals to post their prices and make them available in a format that will allow consumer groups to set up service quality and measuring sites to assist consumers. It also requires the hospitals to say how much they would take for a service if a customer pays cash.
As readers of these pages will attest, we seldom agree with Trump policies, but the hospital price transparency is a good start to creating more competition and lower cost in the health-care industry. Insurance companies also face new transparency regulations from the Trump administration.
An appeals court judge should see through the flimsy and desperate arguments the hospitals and insurance companies are throwing up in condemnation of basic capitalism.
The ruling could still be rejected on appeal. That’s why it’s important for both parties in Congress to pass a similar bill into law to circumvent the legal challenge.
Price transparency in health care will go a long way to lowering costs and enhancing access.