Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The most important detail to watch in the regulations for President Trump's executive order on price transparency for hospitals: will they require that insurers give consumers information on out of pocket costs in a timely and usable way?

Why it matters: That kind of timely information will be needed in the regulations — which have yet to be written — so consumers can shop based on the costs they will actually pay.

The big picture: One big reason general information on prices has only limited utility to consumers is that what they most want to know is not the price of an MRI, or a knee replacement of any other service at this hospital or that, but what they will have to pay for it themselves out of pocket under their insurance plan.

Some insurance companies have tools consumers can use to figure this out, but that information is not easily available to consumers today. As a recent Kaiser Family Foundation/Los Angeles Times survey shows:

  • 67% of the American people say it is somewhat or very difficult for them to figure out what a treatment or procedure will cost them.
  • 44% said they had difficulty determining what they would actually have to pay.
  • 40% had problems figuring out what was even covered.

Even with the right information, larger medical expenditures generally occur when people are in a medical crisis of some kind, in anything but shopping mode, and generally dependent on their physicians to direct them to hospitals, specialists or tests they need. This is why price transparency and shopping is helpful for some services but not a panacea. 

  • It’s not entirely clear whether low rates of price shopping today reflect the lack of price and quality information, or larger barriers to shopping in health care. Just 17 percent of people with typical deductibles shop today, and 21% with high deductible plans. More price transparency will drive these numbers up, but how much is unknown.
  • On the other hand, there is some evidence that people want to shop when they can: 47%, for example, asked for a generic drug to save money in the past year; and 36% checked with a provider or health plan on the cost of an office visit.
  • But just 23% used an online tool to compare provider costs. All told, 70% reported some shopping-like behavior in the survey.

It's important to add that the ability to shop based on price is not equally distributed throughout the population. If you are in a rural area, limited to a narrow network of providers, or dependent on emergency rooms or clinics, you may have very limited options to shop around.

The bottom line: Like putting price information in drug ads, the executive order may not have much impact in terms of actually lowering prices, but it will focus greater attention on high medical prices. That is likely the main reason for industry resistance, and potentially its greatest contribution.

Go deeper

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.

Exclusive: Hundreds of kids held in Border Patrol stations

Migrants cross the Rio Bravo to get to El Paso, Texas. Photo: Herika Martinez/AFP via Getty Images

More than 700 children who crossed from Mexico into the United States without their parents were in Border Patrol custody as of Sunday, according to an internal Customs and Border Protection document obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The current backup is yet another sign of a brewing crisis for President Biden — and a worsening dilemma for these vulnerable children. Biden is finding it's easier to talk about preventing warehousing kids at the southern border than solving the problem.

Pompeo plots 2024 power play

Mike Pompeo in Washington on Feb. 12. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Mike Pompeo has quickly reentered the political fray, raising money for Republicans, addressing key political gatherings and joining an advocacy group run by Donald Trump's former lawyer.

Why it matters: The former secretary of state is widely considered a potential 2024 presidential contender. His professional moves this week indicate he's working to keep his name in the headlines and bolster a political brand built largely on foreign policies easily contrasted with the Biden White House.