As challenges mount to find new and innovative ways to provide quality health care at affordable prices for patients, a battle is brewing over what patients can and cannot know about their healthcare costs. On June 24, President Trump released an executive order directing his administration to take steps to improve healthcare prices and transparency to address the pricing woes patients face.

“We should also require drug companies, insurance companies, and hospitals to disclose real prices to foster competition and bring costs down,” the president said. The work would shed light on the pricing process for patients who are often kept in a fog about potential and actual pricing for their treatment and care.

In addition to encouraging patients to shop for lower-cost health care, the order enforces the following:

  • Hospitals will be required to publicly disclose amounts that reflect what people actually pay for services in an easy-to-read format.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will make out-of-pocket spending information easily available to patients before they receive care.
  • Researchers and providers will gain further access to data to help develop tools to provide patients with more information about healthcare prices and quality.

Aimed at hospitals, the order provides simpler pricing formats that patients can better understand. The president’s order also demands high quality care with fewer surprises emerging in the billing process. The order allows pharmacists to speak directly to patients about lower prices for drugs, and it forces manufacturers to publicly disclose drug prices in their television ads.

Adding his support, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said, “The president’s action today represents one of the major steps in the long history of American healthcare reform, and one of the most significant steps ever taken to put American patients in control of their care.”