The Best Healthcare News You Haven’t Heard in 2019

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, Cabinet members and legislators, signs an Executive Order promoting healthcare choice and competition in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, Thursday, October 12, 2017, in Washington, D.C. President Trump said the Executive Order directs the Department of Health and Human Services, the Treasury, and the Department of Labor to take action to increase competition, increase choice, and increase access to lower-priced, high quality healthcare options. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

Transparency in U.S. Healthcare Costs

“We are just beginning on price transparency. We know that hospitals have this information and we’re asking them to post what they have online.” — Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

“It allows policymakers to review the prices that are out there. [It lets them] say, ‘These are starting prices for negotiations with government and insurers, and maybe you’re starting a little too high. Can you really justify this price?’” -Barbara Feder Ostrov, senior correspondent with Kaiser Health News

The (Still) [un]Affordable Care Act

“It is incredibly important that we find a way forward for change. I believe we owe the American people a better healthcare system and I know you all are here today because you agree. President Trump has heard from so many Americans who are burdened by high healthcare costs — and he is intent on delivering them a better deal. American seniors, even with the protection Medicare affords, spend 14 percent of their household budgets on healthcare. Amazingly, when you count employer contributions, the average American household spends $28,000 a year on healthcare.” -U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Nov. 2018

Welcome to Value-Based Healthcare

Making Patients into Empowered Consumers

“Meanwhile, with regard to the pricing transparency element of the proposed rule, I want to share a personal story. A few years ago, my doctor, whom I love — wanted me to do a routine echocardio stress test. I thought this would be very routine. But his practice is connected to a major medical center. And so, instead of being referred for a [physician practice-based stress test], I was sent a few floors down, sent to a woman who was asking the same questions I’d answered before. Before I know it, I had a plastic wristband, and I had been admitted to the hospital. And I was going to be paying for that test out of pocket, because I was in a high-deductible health plan. And as someone who works in healthcare, I knew that that cost has just jumped.”

“I asked how much that test would cost, and I was told that that information wasn’t available. Eventually, the manager of the clinic appeared, and said that the list price was $5,500. I knew that wasn’t the right answer either, but rather, the price that my insurance company had negotiated. That information didn’t come easily either, but eventually I found out it was $3,500. So I looked up what it would cost if I received this procedure in a doctor’s office, which was $550. Now there I was, the former Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services for the United States — and that’s the amount of effort I needed to make to get that information. What if I was a busy parent who just trusted their doctor and the system? A twenty-something, just enrolled in a high-deductible plan?” -Alex Azar

U.S. Tech billionaire Bill Gates and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “Great to see @BillGates at #HHS today. From #polio eradication to #Alzheimers research, his commitment to #globalhealth is a true inspiration.” (photo: Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services)

Transparency Growing Pains

“List prices, chargemaster prices- like a hotel room rate that you might see posted on the door of a hotel room- hardly anybody ever pays that list price. Usually, it’s negotiated.” -Barbara Feder Ostrov, Kaiser Health News



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