Cynthia Fisher: Health care price transparency is a win for all Americans. Now Congress must act

By Cynthia A. Fisher | Fox News

Price transparency allows health care to become a functional, competitive marketplace.

Tuesday was a huge win for patients and a tremendous victory for all Americans in the battle for health care price transparency – which will lower the runaway health care costs chronically plaguing our nation and economy.

On Tuesday, Sens. Mike Braun, R-Ind., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Kelly Loeffler , R-Ga., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., John Kennedy, R-La., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced the Health Care PRICE Transparency Act, which would require hospitals and health insurers to post their discounted cash prices and secret, hidden negotiated rates.

Last week a federal judge rejected a lawsuit challenging price-transparency rules developed by the Trump administration. The ruling is being appealed, making the Senate legislation to codify these rules even more important so consumers can start seeing prices by Jan. 1, 2021.

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Price transparency allows health care to become a functional, competitive marketplace just as we have in grocery, retail and any other facet of our lives. It empowers American consumers to shop for the best quality care at the lowest possible price.

American consumers know they benefit from competition with improved quality at better prices. This Senate bill would give patients control to make their health care decisions at prices they can afford.

Consider the story of the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, one of a growing number of providers that already post their rates online. The center provides quality care at prices that are one-sixth to one-eighth of those charged by the opaque hospital systems, while guaranteeing its work.

Dr. Keith Smith, co-founder of the Surgery Center and the Free Market Medical Association, has had patients travel from all over the U.S. and Canada to receive quality surgeries at lower cash prices. His patients save tens of thousands of dollars from what they would have been charged by hospitals capitalizing on the misfortune of patients who only see prices when they receive their bill weeks or months later.

Multiple surveys show that 90 percent of Americans want hospitals and insurers to reveal their real prices.

Patients share that they have even used Smith’s prices to negotiate better rates for their surgeries elsewhere. “We had a patient from Georgia who was quoted $40,000 for a procedure that we offer for $3,600,” says Smith. The patient was able to get her local hospital to match the Surgery Center’s price. This microcosm can occur nationwide under systemwide price transparency.

Consider the harbinger of the airline industry, where prices were deregulated in 1978. Airfares decreased by half and safety and access improved.

Multiple surveys show that 90 percent of Americans want hospitals and insurers to reveal their real prices. Americans are unified on this issue. It is overwhelmingly bipartisan.

At no cost to taxpayers, Congress can put this bill into law in the next COVID-19 stimulus. No longer will patients be blindfolded to see prices and forced to pay with a blank check. Knowing prices before they get health care will greatly reduce the costs of care and coverage for all Americans.

These savings will provide a much-needed economic stimulus for families, businesses and our country now and for generations to come. It is time for Congress to act by supporting this critical legislation.

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