President Trump does have health-reform plan — and it’s already driving down costs
On Thursday, President Trump finalized his health-insurance price-transparency rule. Count on it to revolutionize American health care.
The order requires health insurers to publish their real prices and cost-sharing information in advance so health-care consumers can easily shop for the best quality care and coverage at the lowest possible price. From MRIs to colonoscopies to prescription drugs, Americans will now be in charge of their health decisions and savings.
Combined with his already finalized hospital price-transparency rule, this will unleash a competitive, functional marketplace based on free-market principles to drive down costs. The savings to individuals, families, and businesses through consumer empowerment will deliver a substantial economic stimulus now and for generations to come.
Democrats and the mainstream media claim Trump has no health-care plan. This perspective has always been more party-line rhetoric than reality. Trump’s hospital price-transparency rule, which requires providers to post their discounted cash prices and secret negotiated rates, takes effect in the new year.
And last month, Trump issued a billing-transparency order, requiring hospitals to reveal their widespread unethical billing practices, including garnishing patient paychecks, placing liens on their homes and filing lawsuits against them.
Taken together, these three price-transparency rules will create systemwide transparency that will significantly reduce rampant health-care waste, middle players and price-gouging. All Americans will benefit from lower health-care and coverage prices, higher wages and a more productive economy.
Kudos to Health Secretary Alex Azar for his leadership in getting this rule over the finish line.
Armed with real prices, patients and employers (who provide health coverage for about 180 million Americans) will be put in the driver’s seat of their health-care decisions. No longer will they be at the mercy of the pricing whims of the health-care industry, blinded to prices until after their bills arrive in the mail weeks and months after treatment.
Hospitals and health-insurers’ pricing power, which is almost absolute under the current opaque model, will collapse as upfront cost information empowers patients with the same financial certainty, discretion and choice that consumers enjoy in every other economic sector.
No wonder price transparency is supported by an overwhelming bipartisan majority — of about 90 percent of Americans, including 98 percent of women under 40.
Health-care cost relief is needed now. A recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that average premiums for employer-sponsored family health-care plans have increased by 55 percent over the last decade to $21,300 per year. Including deductibles, which run roughly $8,000 per family on average, total health coverage costs around $30,000 per year.
According to a recent RAND report, hospital prices average 2.5 times more than what Medicare pays, and rise to three or four times in many hospital systems nationwide.
Trump’s transparency efforts will make health-care consumption resemble the market for air travel, with stated prices from various competing providers and brokers. This airline analogy is especially instructive because this industry used to operate in the dark like health care does today.
Prices and routes were heavily regulated and opaque. Travelers were forced to visit high-priced travel agents, who could price-gouge without consequence.
After airline deregulation, a free and competitive airfare market emerged, reducing prices by about 50 percent while improving quality, safety and access. Travelers can now easily shop around based on prices and quality.
Like health care, air travel has many variables — including weather, airport traffic, plane repairs, fuel prices, etc. — that affect costs. Yet airlines are able to offer upfront, clear pricing that provides travelers with financial certainty and creates a market signal for competitors to try to undercut. The health-care industry can too.
Lower health-care and coverage prices will leave more money for patients and employers. That means improved family and business budgets, increased local spending and faster wage growth. The health-care beast, which now consumes nearly a fifth of GDP, will shrink, leaving the economy freer to prosper.
Trump’s price-transparency rules will prove a dramatic breakthrough for American health care, just as price deregulation did for air travel, allowing all Americans to protect their health and wealth.
Cynthia A. Fisher is an entrepreneur, founder of PatientRightsAdvocate.org and former CEO of Viacord Inc.
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