Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) told Breitbart News healthcare conglomerates are “laughing” at the Joe Biden administration’s lack of enforcement of a Trump healthcare price transparency rule.  

The Patients Rights Advocate (PRA), a nonpartisan organization dedicated to ushering in systemwide price transparency, released a report in February that found that only 14.3 percent of hospitals complied with a Trump rule requiring hospitals to post online all prices for their medical services.  

The nonprofit organization surveyed 1,000 hospitals and found that 14.3 percent complied with the rule, 37.9 percent posted a “sufficient” amount of negotiated rates, half were not compliant with other areas of the rule, and only 0.5 percent of hospitals owned by the three largest hospital systems — HCA Healthcare, CommonSpirit, and Ascension — complied with the Trump price transparency rule.  

Braun has long maintained that the healthcare industry needs to embrace and Republicans need to enforce transparency to lower healthcare prices, or else the country will start edging closer to a single-payer healthcare system such as Medicare for All.  

Sens. Braun, Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced the Healthcare PRICE Transparency Act in 2020, which became the basis for Trump’s healthcare executive order that set up the price transparency rule.  Then-White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany described the healthcare price rule as the “most far-reaching price transparency reform in the history of American healthcare.”  

The PRA report found several reasons for the rampant hospital noncompliance with the Trump healthcare price transparency rule, including:  

  • Although the Biden administration increased the “civil monetary penalties” for noncompliance in November 2021, the penalties may have not been set to a level to “incentivize compliance.”
  • While the Biden administration has issued warning letters to noncompliant hospitals, none have been reported to have been assessed any penalties. [Emphasis added]

In reaction to the report, Braun told Breitbart News that the large healthcare conglomerates are “gaming” the Trump rule and “laughing” at the penalties for noncompliance.  Hospital overpricing can often be clouded where there is insufficient price transparency enforcement, as exhibited by MaineHealth.  

An IV bag of saline costs Maine Medical Center $2, but the Portland, Maine, hospital has reportedly charged patients covered by Anthem insurance $136 per bag and even tried to hide the bill, according to Anthem.  

“Charges for saline – which they shouldn’t be charging for in the first place – and overcharges for other medications impact consumers in the form of higher cost shares through deductibles and co-insurance,” Denise McDonough, president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Maine, said, in a statement in April.  

Braun lamented that Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra and the Biden administration have not adequately focused on kitchen-table issues such as lowering the cost of health care.

He said, “It’s the closest thing to the perfect industry if you want no competition and no transparency, and it disguises itself as a free market. And, that’s the frustration that Democrats and liberals have and I share some of that. I just don’t want to hand it over to the federal government. Sadly, that’ll be what happens if the industry doesn’t fix itself and be more proactive.”  The PRA found that the lack of compliance with the Trump transparency rule under Biden has led to a failure of hospitals to provide consumers with the information necessary so that the patient can make the right healthcare decision:

Empowered with comparative price and quality information in advance of care, consumers, including employers and unions, can improve health outcomes while lowering costs by taking advantage of the benefits of competitive market efficiencies. Moreover, known prices help prevent billing errors, overcharges, and fraud. Only with timely and full compliance from hospitals with the hospital price transparency rule and from insurers and health plans with the Transparency in Coverage Rule starting July 2022, will such benefits of price transparency through competition and choice be deployed.  

Price transparency is a crucial first step toward a more transparent, competitive healthcare system.

Today, because of hidden prices and the lack of a functional market, the United States is paying double that of other developed countries for our healthcare, and with worse health outcomes and shorter life spans. Competition lowers costs of care to employers and workers, allows for higher wages, and results in a more globally competitive U.S. economy.  

The PRA concluded in its report, “Only with true compliance with both price transparency laws and regulations will such long-term goals be realized.”  Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.