Bush Calls for Hospital Price Disclosures
President Bush on Monday in a speech to the American Hospital Association urged hospitals to make price data for medical procedures available to the public as a way to drive down health care costs, CQ HealthBeat reports (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 5/1).
Bush said, "If we want to be the leader of the world, we must do something about" rising health care costs, adding, "And my administration is determined to do something about it" (AP/Houston Chronicle, 5/1).
"We're asking doctors and hospitals and other providers to post their walk-in prices to all customers," Bush said. He stated, "Every hospital represented here should take action to make information on prices and quality available to all your patients. If everyone here cooperates, ... we can increase transparency without the need for legislation from the United States Congress."
Bush said that Medicare will begin posting price data on the Internet starting June 1. He stated that price information from hospitals, along with greater use of health savings accounts, would utilize market forces to keep medical costs down.
HSAs "will mean that Americans who do not have coverage will be able to get coverage and afford coverage," Bush said, adding that as a result, "fewer people will show up at our nation's hospitals needing uncompensated care." Bush noted that few hospitals currently offer HSAs, and he encouraged them to do so.
Bush said Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) this week will introduce legislation to increase tax breaks for buying HSAs, including a tax credit of up to $3,000 for low-income families (CQ HealthBeat, 5/1). Bush also called for limits on medical malpractice lawsuits, the creation of electronic health records and 400 new community health centers (Benedetto, USA Today, 5/2).
AHA President Dick Davidson in a statement said that the group "supports federal requirements for states, working with state hospital associations to expand the many existing state efforts that make hospital charge information available to consumers. The AHA also supports federal requirements for states, working with insurers to make available in advance of medical visits information about a patient's expected out-of-pocket costs."
Although the Bush administration has called for disclosure of the entire costs of procedures, Davidson said that consumers would benefit more from knowing their own out-of-pocket costs. Davidson in his statement called for a federal study to determine what price information would be beneficial to patients, adding that costs should be explained to patients in comprehensible language. Davidson also said the disclosures should explain why prices vary.
Federation of American Hospitals President Chip Kahn credited Bush for talking about "the groundbreaking public-private sector quality partnership where hospitals are publicly reporting on clinical performance." Kahn added that FAH is "look[ing] forward to working with the administration to expand this quality initiative to include additional measures as well as ... health care pricing information."
Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said, "I hope to draft and advance a health care tax incentives package this year that may include an expansion of HSAs, especially for small businesses." Grassley added that he did not think HSA tax breaks proposed by the administration would be approved this year (CQ HealthBeat, 5/1).
Senior congressional Republicans "say there is little hope of any of Bush's health care proposals will be passed in this election year," the AP/Chronicle reports (AP/Houston Chronicle, 5/1).
The Democratic National Committee said Bush's proposals are written for special interests and would not significantly reduce health care costs or reduce the number of uninsured residents, according to USA Today (USA Today, 5/2).