Rebates.com, one of the biggest prescription coupon sites in the world, applauds the Trump Administration’s decision to fight for health care cost transparency. It’s a mission we’ve held close to our hearts since our founding, and we look forward to added support from the federal government.
Through our work, we know that costs can vary dramatically from person to person and location to location. Our discount cards equalize the price, to some degree. Everyone with a card has access to deals we’ve negotiated.
But even so, we can’t explicitly tell our customers how much their medications will cost as part of a comprehensive plan to manage a condition. Why? Because we don’t have that data.
Accessing it will help us guide our customers even more carefully. And it could help us to pass along deeper savings.
The Statement Is a Step in the Right Direction
In late May, the Trump administration started talking about an executive order to demand price transparency. Major news outlets like The New York Times, CNN, and The Wall Street Journal picked up the conversation. From what we can tell, it’s an excellent idea.
The Trump team hoped to craft an order that requires health care organizations to disclose financial agreements between:
- Affiliated health care providers
The ultimate goal is a price sheet with clear fees consumers can both access and understand.
But there’s a lot of data to parse here. Hospitals, for example, may have dozens of different agreements with one health insurer, with varying prices for each plan type.
Trump officials hope to walk a fine line between demanding data and not overwhelming officials with requests. They need to hammer out those details before the order is written.
So far, those discussions are happening behind closed doors. Officials are tight-lipped about what will be included and how it might work. But no more, as the order has just passed.
How does the Order Help Consumers?
Medical pricing is complicated. Just ask anyone who has tried to determine if a procedure is covered by insurance. Each request is peppered with if/then data. Often, consumers need experts to help them walk through the maze.
But the wording of the order could demand clear communication. If companies can’t hide pricing behind convoluted language and too many vague terms, consumers could get just what they want when they want it.
And how can they use it? To shop for the best price.
If a consumer is contemplating an expensive, elective surgery, that person could search for the lowest fee:
- Close to home. What does the nearest hospital charge? Is the larger facility in the next town a better deal?
- Far from home. Medical tourism allows consumers to head anywhere to get help for illness. If the savings are significant, a trip makes sense.
- With insurance. Consumers could find out just how much their companies negotiate on their behalf. That could lead to enhanced loyalty.
- Without insurance. Cash-strapped facilities may offer discounts for consumers willing to skip the paperwork. If the math checks out, this could be worthwhile.
Critics of the executive order say consumers don’t shop for pricing data. But they don’t offer hard statistics to back it up. And they don’t point out that researching now is meaningless. The data doesn’t exist, so consumers don’t use it. Why tap into a system that doesn’t have useful information?
What Happens Next?
Medical costs are rising, and consumers are rightfully concerned about how much their care costs and what should happen next. They need data to make the best decisions for their health, their budgets, and their future.
At Rebates.com, we make getting the best price on medications really easy. But we hope that the same trend will continue in other avenues of health care.
We have envisioned a day when anyone can search for a hard price on a medical intervention. That’s real power we think consumers deserve. We are elated to see our vision become a reality.
Trump Administration Preparing Executive Order on Health-Cost Disclosure, Regional Hospital Monopolies. (May 2019). The Wall Street Journal.
Trump Takes Aim at Insurers and Hospitals Over Health Care Costs. (May 2019). CNN.
Trump Ready for Force Transparency in Healthcare Pricing with an Executive Order. (May 2019). Forbes.
Trump Administration Targets ‘Secretive Nature’ of Health Care Pricing. (March 2019). The New York Times.
Healthcare Pushes Back as Trump Prepares Executive Order on Price Transparency. (May 2019). Becker’s Hospital Review.