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Trump mulling more medical price transparency

The Trump administration is considering requiring insurers to disclose their negotiated rates for services, which could affect insurers in the private market, the WSJ scooped yesterday.

Details: The White House also wants providers to tell patients the total cost of their care before they get the service, regardless of whether the provider is in the patients' insurance network.

  • The push for greater price disclosure would use existing administrative tools, including Labor Department powers.
  • This follows a proposal floated earlier this year that would require hospitals and doctors to disclose the prices they negotiate with insurers, which sparked industry backlash.

If this happened, it would be a huge change from today's secretive pricing system. But it's unclear how well this transparency would work to bring down prices.

  • "There's a natural gut instinct that price transparency will lead to more competition and lower prices, but that’s not at all clear. Where providers have monopoly power, greater transparency won’t do anything," the Kaiser Family Foundation's Larry Levitt said.
  • But there's also a risk of prices actually increasing. "With greater transparency, there's the distinct possibility that low-priced hospitals will demand higher rates once they find out what their competitors are getting paid," Levitt added.

Go deeper: Transparency alone won't solve drug prices