Bipartisan group seeks information on medical price transparency

A group of bipartisan legislators is seeking feedback from major advocacy groups such as the American Hospital Association (AHA), the American Medical Association (AMA), the Association of Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), Blue Cross Blue Shield and United Health Group, as they launch an effort to increase health care price and information transparency.

Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Todd Young (R-IN) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) are seeking feedback from the health care and patient communities as they develop legislation to improve price transparency in the health care market and lower costs.

The senators plan to host roundtable discussions with key experts on the issue in the coming weeks and hope to engage the administration, congress and governors. The senators asked the advocacy groups to submit their comments by March 23.

In other news related to price transparency, Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar told a group of Federation of American Hospitals executives that the Trump administration is committed to transitioning the U.S. health system toward value-based payments, promising that “change is coming” to the health care industry.

Azar stated the shift toward value-based payments began more than a decade ago, but today value-based payment is still far from reaching its potential. He continued further in regards to the current fee-for-service model stating, “We have been on a journey to replace that equation with a new one—paying for outcomes and wellness—but that transition needs to accelerate dramatically.”  Azar stated, “There is no turning back to an unsustainable system that pays for procedures rather than value. In fact, the only option is to charge forward—for HHS to take bolder action, and for providers and payers to join with us.”

In his remarks, Azar outlined four priority areas to foster the transition toward value-based payments:

  • Experimenting with payment models in Medicare and Medicaid that aim to drive value and quality;
  • Granting U.S. consumers more access to health information through interoperable and accessible health technology;
  • Promoting transparency among providers, payers, pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies on prices and quality; and
  • Reducing regulatory burdens that hinder the transition toward value-based payments, such as reporting requirements.

Michael Leavitt, a former Republican governor of Utah who served as HHS secretary under former President George W. Bush’s administration, said Azar’s “remarks, are likely [HHS’] most important statement on health care issued during this administration.” Leavitt continued, “I highly encourage health care leaders to listen intently to his full remarks: The transition [toward] value is moving forward; if you aren’t already preparing for it, it is time to get on-board.”

Read the rest of Alex Azar’s remarks here.