White House Runs Into Health-Care Industry Hostility as it Plans Executive Order

May 30, 2019

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Source: The Washington Post

President Trump is preparing to issue an executive order to foster greater price transparency across a broad swath of the health-care industry as consumer concerns about medical costs emerge as a major issue in the lead-up to next year’s presidential election.

The most far-reaching element favored by the White House aides developing the order would require insurers and hospitals to disclose for the first time the discounted rates they negotiate for services, according to health-care lobbyists and policy experts familiar with the deliberations.

The idea has stirred such intense industry opposition, however, that it may be dropped from the final version, the sources said.

Compelling disclosure of negotiated rates “would have the ultimate anti-competitive effect,” said Tom Nickels, the American Hospital Association’s executive vice president for government relations and public policy. “I know they are aware of the concerns.”

Other parts of the order are expected to make it easier for people on Medicare, the federal insurance program for older and disabled Americans, to find out what they would pay for treatment at various hospitals by widening the range of services for which hospitals must post their prices.

The order also may include an effort to promote more competition among hospitals by slowing a trend toward consolidation, according to an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity about details that continue to take shape.

“We’re still ironing it out,” the official said.

The executive order, likely to be announced by mid-June and first reported by the Wall Street Journal, would carry the force of law but not bring about immediate change. Such orders essentially direct federal agencies to rewrite rules to advance their goals — in this instance, the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Justice, according to people familiar with the White House’s plans.

Other parts of the order are expected to make it easier for people on Medicare, the federal insurance program for older and disabled Americans, to find out what they would pay for treatment at various hospitals by widening the range of services for which hospitals must post their prices.

The order also may include an effort to promote more competition among hospitals by slowing a trend toward consolidation, according to an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity about details that continue to take shape.

“We’re still ironing it out,” the official said.

The executive order, likely to be announced by mid-June and first reported by the Wall Street Journal, would carry the force of law but not bring about immediate change. Such orders essentially direct federal agencies to rewrite rules to advance their goals — in this instance, the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Justice, according to people familiar with the White House’s plans.

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