Jun 24, 2020 - Health

Federal court rules hospitals must disclose their prices

Illustration of a hospital bed with the price tag on it

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A federal judge upheld Tuesday the Trump administration's rules requiring hospitals to publicly disclose the prices they've negotiated with insurers — information that both hospitals and insurers would very much prefer to keep secret.

The state of play: The American Hospital Association sued to block the rules, arguing that they exceeded the administration's legal authority and infringed on hospitals' First Amendment rights. The court rejected both arguments.

"The publication of charges will allow the agency to further its interest of informing patients about the cost of care, which will in turn advance its other interest — bringing down the cost of health care," Judge Carl Nichols wrote in his ruling.

Experts and economists aren't so sure that's correct. There's at least an argument that price transparency can backfire, causing prices to rise, but it has been a core element of the Trump administration's efforts to lower health care prices.

  • And the difficulty — in many cases, the impossibility — of finding out in advance how much hospital care will cost is often maddening for patients.

What's next: The AHA will appeal this ruling to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and says it will seek expedited review. The disclosure are rules are set to take effect in January.

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