The new ruling will require both insurers and hospitals to disclose their price lists of tests, treatment and procedures – a move that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar insisted was ‘a resounding victory’, improving access to healthcare for US citizens by pushing down costs.
“American patients deserve to be in control of their healthcare,” Azar said in a statement. “Especially when patients are seeking needed care during a public health emergency, it is more important than ever that they have ready access to the actual prices of healthcare services.”
However, the US healthcare industry, including the American Hospital Association (AHA), has argued that forcing the disclosure of negotiated prices between insurers and hospitals is akin to coercion. “It also imposes significant burdens on hospitals at a time when resources are stretched thin and need to be devoted to patient care,” Melinda Hatton, General Counsel for the AHA said. “The AHA will appeal this decision and seek expedited review.”
Under the new ruling, hospitals will be required to: publish negotiated rates for the 300 most common services that can be scheduled in advance; disclose what they'd be willing to accept if the patient pays cash, and publish all their charges in a format that can be read on the internet by other computer systems, allowing web developers and consumer groups to come up with tools that patients and their families can use.
The new ruling is due to come into effect from January 2021, although this is dependent on the outcome of future appeals.