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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Trump administration argues its new price transparency rules will help patients shop for cheaper care and encourage insurers to make such shopping attractive.

Yes, but: Research shows most patients don't shop for care, even when tools exist to make it easier.

Driving the news: The administration proposed two price transparency regulations last week.

  • One finalized the requirement that hospitals disclose their negotiated prices.
  • The other proposed requiring insurers to do the same. It also would require insurers to make out-of-pocket spending information available to patients, which HHS says "would empower consumers to shop and compare costs between specific providers before receiving care."

The problem: Most patients haven't used cost-comparison tools when they've been made available in the past.

  • "It’s pretty difficult to get consumers to engage with price information and make decisions based on price information," said Sunita Desai, a professor at New York University.
  • These tools also don't lead to lower health spending, studies show.

The exception: Price transparency is more effective when paired with extra incentives to shop around — which the Trump administration addresses.

  • The proposed rule would allow insurers to count the savings generated by price shopping toward their medical loss ratio.
  • This could nudge plans to create new incentives for enrollees, although this is only one of the reasons why insurers may have limited incentives to get patients to price shop.

None of this matters much in places where providers have monopolies, as patients don't have any choice about where they get their care and thus can't shop around.

The bottom line: "The norms around how we get health care — how we use the internet to make health care-related decisions — [have] been changing," Desai said.

  • "It’s possible that having this information out there could over time start to change the way people make decisions.”

Go deeper

2 mins ago - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."

The Mischief Makers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as troublemakers within their parties and political thorns for their leadership.

Why it matters: We're calling this group "The Mischief Makers" — members who threaten to upend party unity — the theme eclipsing Washington at the moment — and potentially jeopardize the Democrats' or Republicans' position heading into the 2022 midterms.

Obama speechwriter fears Biden unity drive is one-sided

Cody Keenan (right) is shown heading to Marine One in December 2009. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Obama's former speechwriter says he's "preemptively frustrated" with President Biden's effort to find unity with Republicans.

What they're saying: Cody Keenan told Axios that Biden's messaging team has "struck all the right chords," but at some point "they're gonna have to answer questions like, 'Why didn't you achieve unity?' when there's an entire political party that's already acting to stop it."