(Nov. 15) When it comes to improving the nation’s healthcare system, the Trump administration continues to do administratively some of the good things it hasn’t been able to do legislatively.

On Friday, it took two major steps toward transparency in pricing and options. Patients will now better understand what their choices and costs will be. The president and his team deserve credit for their efforts.

Specifically, the administration formally proposed one new rule (not yet “final” in the administrative process) and finalized another. The first, the Transparency in Coverage rule, would require health plans to provide real-time, online information including an “estimate of their cost-sharing liability for all covered healthcare items and services” in order to “empower consumers to shop and compare costs between specific providers before receiving care.”

Also, health plans would “disclose on a public website their negotiated rates for in-network providers and allowed amounts paid for out-of-network providers. Making this information available to the public is intended to drive innovation, support informed, price-conscious decision-making, and promote competition in the healthcare industry.”

The second rule, finalized on Friday, has an unwieldy 22-word title, but its upshot is that hospitals now must “provide patients with clear, accessible information about their ‘standard charges’ for the items and services they provide.” The information “must include additional information such as common billing or accounting codes used by the hospital … and a description of the item or service to provide common elements for consumers to compare standard charges from hospital to hospital.”

To be sure, details matter, and one can only help the new rules provide enough guidance and assistance to insurers and hospitals for them to easily comply. Still, these efforts are tremendously important, for individual patients and systemic improvements and, eventually, a reduction in healthcare price inflation….

[The full column is here.]


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