Price Transparency in the News

On May 1, 2006, President Bush spoke before the American Hospital Association (AHA) convention. He had the following comments on price transparency: “My administration is working with the AHA and other health care associations to provide patients with reliable information about prices and quality on the most common medical procedures. And I want to thank the AHA board for adopting a resolution this week supporting transparency. I appreciate your leadership on this vital issue. (Applause.) “We must work together to get patients the information they need so they can get the best quality care for the best price. If you’re worried about increasing costs, it makes sense to have price options available for patients. That’s what happens in a lot of our society; it should happen in health care, as well. By increasing transparency, the idea is to empower consumers to find value for their dollars and to help patients find better care and to help transform this system of ours to make sure America remains the leader in health care. “Secretary Leavitt has met with leaders in the health care industry in 13 cities to encourage them to work with the Department of Health and Human Services to increase transparency in the marketplace. We’re asking doctors and hospitals and other providers to post their walk-in prices to all patients. I directed the Department of Health and Human Services to make data on Medicare’s price and quality publicly available on the Internet. The first data will be available to all Americans by June 1st. We’re also asking insurance companies to increase health care transparency by providing their negotiating prices and quality information to their enrollees. And the federal government will do the same. “My administration will be requiring transparency from insurance plans participating in federal programs. Beginning this year, the Federal Employees Benefit Program and the military’s Tricare system are asking contractors to begin providing price and quality information. “Today, I’m asking for your help. Every hospital represented here should take action to make information on prices and quality available to all your patients. If everyone here cooperates in this endeavor we can increase transparency without the need for legislation from the United States Congress. By working together, transparency — to increase transparency, we can help lower costs.” Here’s a link to the AHA’s new price transparency policy. The AHA asks for federal standards on the presentation of pricing information and for insurers to provide an explanation of benefits before care is provided – an advance EOB. (I believe that easier said than done.) According to the AHA, Aetna is piloting an advance EOB in Cincinnati, OH. AHA also points out that the amount of pricing information that a consumer needs depends on their type of health care coverage.