WASHINGTON (AP) – The Trump administration won a court order on Tuesday and maintained its plan to require insurers and hospitals to declare actual prices for common tests and procedures to promote competition and cut costs.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar called the decision before federal court in Washington, DC, “a resounding victory” for President Donald Trump’s efforts to open the complex world of health care prices so that patients and families are more informed make decisions about their care.
“This is perhaps bigger than the health care system itself,” Trump tweeted about the statement on Tuesday. “Congratulations America!”
But the American Hospital Association, which had sued to block and lose the Trump administration, announced it would appeal. The industry argues that forcing the disclosure of prices negotiated between hospitals and insurers is coercion.
That means that the decision of US district judge Carl J. Nichols may not be the last word.
“American patients deserve to be in control of their healthcare,” Azar said in a statement. “Particularly when patients seek appropriate care during a public health emergency, it is more important than ever that they have direct access to actual health care prices.”
Melinda Hatton, general adviser to the hospital association, said the trading group is disappointed by the statement that maintains what it calls an “inadequate” policy. Hatton also cited the coronavirus pandemic, saying that observing the rule would bring new costs at the wrong time.
“It also places a great burden on hospitals at a time when resources are scarce and must be spent on patient care,” said Hatton. “The AHA will appeal this decision and demand an early review.”
The administration’s disclosure rule will come into effect in January, but that timetable is now unclear.
Nonetheless, patient lawyer Cynthia Fisher said the judge’s decision will help demystify healthcare costs and is in line with what most people want to see. “Americans want hospitals and insurance companies to reveal their hidden prices and believe it will lower prices,” said Fisher.
As suggested, the Trump administration rule would require hospitals to:
—Publish negotiated rates in a customer-friendly way for the 300 most common services that can be pre-planned, such as a knee replacement, cesarean delivery, or MRI scan. Hospitals should reveal what they would accept if the patient paid in cash. The information would be updated every year.
—Publish all their costs in a format that can be read by other computer systems on the Internet. This allows web developers and consumer groups to devise tools that patients and their families can use.
Insurers are also against the plan, saying it could get providers who accept a bargain price to try to offer what they charge if they see others getting more.
Judge Nichols was brought to court by Trump.
This story corrects the spelling of Melinda Hatton’s surname.
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