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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

Why 401(k) rollovers are so annoying

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If you happened to change jobs recently, you may have tried to transfer your retirement account from your former employer into an Individual Retirement Account or your new employer's 401(k) plan. If so, you probably encountered a bureaucratic gantlet — and you're not alone.

Why it matters: Kludgey processes around retirement account transfers result in people losing track of their funds, giving up important tax advantages, or otherwise disadvantaging themselves and being less prepared for retirement.

The hard math behind America's labor shortage

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Congressional Budget Office; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, the pandemic has created unusual temporary labor market dynamics. But in the bigger picture, the 2010s were a golden age for companies seeking cheap labor. The 2020s are not.

The big picture: In the 2010s, the massive millennial generation was entering the workforce, the massive baby bo0m generation was still hard at work, and there was a multi-year hangover from the deep recession caused by the global financial crisis.

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.