Pandemic Emphasizes Need For Health Care Price Transparency, Advocate Says

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Andrew Trunsky Political Reporter
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The coronavirus pandemic has made the need for health care pricing transparency more urgent, says the leader of an organization advocating for its implementation.

No laws require hospitals or insurance companies to list the price of a procedure or drug before consumers make purchases, according to Heather Higgins, who leads the Patient Protection Pledge (PPP). The group advocates “market-based price transparency,” which Higgins said would allow Americans to compare the prices of different drugs and procedures and choose the best option.

“Two-thirds of bankruptcies are health care related,” Higgins said. “Ultimately, people are being whacked.”

Americans’ understanding of the costs of their health care decisions is “so important, particularly in a time of COVID, uncertainty and economic hardship,” she added.

Over 41,000 constituents have signed the pledge so far, and nearly 90% of Americans support health care price transparency has among Americans, according to PPP’s website. Despite widespread support from Americans, however, Higgins described the obstacles in adopting price transparency legislation as “a very hard thing to overcome.”

“There is an entire health care industrial complex,” she told the DCNF, referring to hospitals, insurers, pharmaceutical companies and more, all of whom make billions of dollars a year, according to The Truth Cost of Health Care.

“Both Republicans and Democrats aren’t really talking about health care price transparency with the clarity that they should,” Higgins said, adding that though Democratic nominee Joe Biden has stated support for price transparency, “he hasn’t specified how he’ll get there.”

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 24: U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on June 23, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

And while the PPP “first started by supporting President Donald Trump’s executive order” pertaining to price transparency, Higgins said, “it’s only an executive order, which could ultimately put it at risk(RELATED: Trump Pushes Price Transparency As Part Of COVID Relief)

“I hope that Congress can find common ground,” Higgins said. “Most Republicans and Democrats believe that people should know the price of something before they buy it.”

US President Donald Trump signs an executive order on lowering drug prices at the White House, in Washington, DC on July 24, 2020. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Some opponents of price transparency have advocated against the proposed legislation, saying that it could facilitate collusion and ultimately drive prices up as a result. Critics have also said that since Medicare does not pay for every drug, hospitals could struggle financially, hindering their ability to provide quality care as a result.

“I know an awful lot of instances where competition and transparency drives prices down. In my experience, it’s a lot easier to collude behind closed doors,” Higgins said in response.

Critics have also said that price transparency would drive people to take the cheapest drugs available instead of the most effective drugs available, risking their health and costing more in the long term.

“People have been getting shorted during this pandemic,” she said, referencing unexpected testing costs and hospital visits, and “young people have been forgoing health care to avoid surprise costs.”

“With price transparency, Americans are given a service that they were previously denied.”

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