Strong hospital and insurance lobbies have long strived to block efforts in the state to give consumers more information about what health care services cost. Just last year, there was a bill at the legislature to require hospitals to provide the relative costs of services to a database that would allow consumers to discern high cost versus lower cost providers in the market and therefore make more informed decisions about their healthcare.
House Bill 2603 would have been particularly helpful for businesses and organizations that are self-insured and engineering their networks for employee insurance plans. Armed with even just the weighted average payor rate and the annual rate of growth would have facilitated major shifts in behavior by these more sophisticated insurance plan architects, forcing premiums down over time and saving the end user money.
This bill was killed last year by the healthcare lobby in the legislature.
Just a couple months after, President Trump filed his executive order requiring Health and Human Services set regulations requiring the disclosure of the secret rates insurers pay hospitals. Since then his administration has been promulgating rules to prevent “surprise billing” as well as requiring hospitals to share the discounts they give cash-paying patients.
This isn’t the only step Trump has taken to administratively unwind the massive red tape of the ACA. In the summer of 2018, they loosened rules to allow for short term health plans. A measure Republicans rightfully codified in Arizona in the 2019 legislative session.
What Trump understands that Republican lawmakers should learn in Arizona – is without a repeal of Obamacare – policymakers must find alternative ways to empower choice and flexibility in the marketplace.
Without incremental changes that put consumers in the drivers’ seat, the ratchet will only turn more toward government run, single-payer healthcare, accompanied by the price controls and rationed care that comes with it.
Luckily, Arizona lawmakers will have an opportunity to redeem themselves next session when an updated version of HB 2603 will be introduced. We will see once again who supports price transparency and who will carry the water for the healthcare lobby.
With the 2020 elections looming, healthcare is on the mind of voters. Absent a major righting of the ship in the way of repealing Obamacare, Republicans must provide market and consumer-driven solutions to lower costs and increase choice and quality. The President has the right idea. Hopefully lawmakers in Arizona continue to follow his lead.