On October 29, 2020, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury (“the Departments”) issued a final rule requiring private-sector health insurers and self-insured health plans to disclose treatment prices and cost-sharing information with consumers.  The Transparency in Coverage rule comes in response to President Trump’s executive order aiming to increase transparency in the healthcare industry. It is slated to become effective on January 11, 2021.

The final rule contains three main parts: (1) requirements for plans and issuers to disclose estimated costs associated with covered items or services furnished by a particular provider; (2) requirements for plans and issuers to publicly disclose reimbursement rates; and (3) amendments to the medical loss ratio program rules to allow issuers to receive credit for enrollees’ savings. Each part is discussed below.

Estimated Costs

First, insurers and employer-sponsored health plans will be required to provide price estimates, including in-network and out-of-network negotiated rates, for health care items and services upon request.  The regulation requires these estimates beginning in 2023 for the 500 most “shoppable” items and services on an internet-based self-service tool (and in paper form, if requested by the participant, beneficiary, or enrollee).  Among the 500 “shoppable services” are mammograms, physician visits, colonoscopies, and various blood tests, biopsies, and X-rays, and the full list is specified in the regulations.  Then, beginning in 2024, price estimates for all remaining items and services offered, including procedures, drugs, durable medical equipment, must be disclosed. The price transparency requirements include disclosure of the following:


Continue Reading HHS Finalizes Health Plan Price Transparency Rule

In early February, two federal bills targeting surprise billing in healthcare advanced out of committee.  On February 11, the House Education and Labor Committee passed the Ban Surprise Billing Act (H.R. 5800), which was introduced by Chairman Rep. Bobby Scott (D. – Virginia) and Ranking Member Rep. Virginia Foxx (R. – North Carolina).  One day later, the House Ways and Means Committee unanimously advanced the Consumer Protections Against Surprise Medical Bills Act (H.R. 5826), led by Chairman Rep. Richard Neal (D. – Massachusetts) and Ranking Member Rep. Kevin Brady (R. – Texas).  Both bills would prohibit providers from balance billing patients for surprise medical bills and would limit patients’ cost-sharing to in-network amounts.  The two competing bills must be reconciled before the full House can vote on the issue.  Leaders hope to include the final product in a spending bill that must pass Congress by May 22.

Similar scopes of coverage

The competing bills are substantively similar in several ways.  Each bill applies to out-of-network emergency claims, to post-stabilization inpatient services provided to patients who are admitted to the hospital through the emergency room, and to non-emergency services provided at in-network facilities by out-of-network providers.  The Ban Surprise Billing Act also covers air ambulance services.  Additionally, both bills apply to all individual and group health plans (both fully- and self-insured) in the group and individual markets, but do not apply to federal programs such as Medicaid or the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.  The Ban Surprise Billing Act also extends to grandfathered health plans.

Notice requirements
Continue Reading Competing Surprise Billing Proposals Set to Collide in the U.S. House; States Test Different Solutions

A patient has an emergency and goes to a hospital she knows is in her plan’s network. She receives treatment. She leaves the hospital. Weeks later, she receives a medical bill for tens of thousands of dollars. Unbeknownst to her, some or all of her treating doctors were out-of-network.

This all-too-common story has contributed to a significant medical debt crisis in this country, and has captured the attention of policymakers on all sides of the political spectrum—leading to the rare circumstance of executive and legislative alignment and the potential for bipartisan legislative action.

Proponents of price transparency hope that it will improve competition and allow patients to better understand their financial responsibility ahead of receiving services. The idea is that disclosing prices to individuals will incentivize them to “shop around” for health care services, which may drive down costs. On the other hand, opponents of price transparency argue that releasing such information could compromise bargaining leverage between third party payers and providers, and have the effect of driving up prices since information exchanges in concentrated markets can lead to tacit coordination that’s difficult to detect and punish under the antitrust laws.


Continue Reading Trump Administration and Congress Are Moving Quickly on Health Care Price Transparency and Lowering Costs

On March 6, 2018 at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2018 conference, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma announced a new initiative furthering the current Administration’s focus on value-based care and increasing patient access to healthcare data. The initiative — called MyHealthEData — will be led by the White House Office of American Innovation, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), CMS, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). (CMS press release here.)
Continue Reading Liberating Data to Transform Value-Based Care: MyHealthEData, Blue Button 2.0, and Price Transparency

On March 20-21, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held a public workshop, “Examining Health Care Competition,” to discuss trends and developments in the health care industry that may affect competition. Specifically, the workshop used five panels of industry participants and experts to study professional regulation of health care providers, innovations in health care delivery,