The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the good, the bad, and the ugly about American health care. How much do you know about our current system? Let’s play “Two Truths and a Lie” to find out. Can you spot which of the following statements is NOT true?
A. Most Americans with private insurance in the U.S. get it through their employer.
B. Hospitals are required to disclose their pricing information in the U.S.
C. States and the federal government waived many healthcare rules and regulations in the wake of the pandemic.
Let’s take these statements one at a time:
A. TRUTH: Most Americans with private insurance in the U.S. get it through their employer. This system is unique in the world, and it is an accident of history. While it works well for a lot of people (including me!) who get a tax break on our health insurance benefit, this system has a lot of downsides. It’s regressive and disadvantages people without jobs or without on-the-job benefits. And it limits choice and competition in insurance markets. The pandemic also showed us that when a public health crisis and an economic crisis happen together, millions of people with job-based coverage risk losing that coverage at a really inopportune time: namely, when there’s a deadly virus going around.
B. LIE: No, hospitals aren’t required to disclose pricing information in the U.S. At least, not yet. President Trump has advanced regulatory changes that will require this starting in January of 2021, but the lack of price transparency in our system in the past has helped to push prices higher and higher. Hospitals took a big financial hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients might be wary that, eager to make up for lost revenues, hospitals could increase what they charge. Price transparency will guard against that and help restore trust in our medical system. Wouldn’t it be nice to know ahead of time what you’ll be charged? This is an expectation when we buy nearly every other product or service.
C. TRUTH: States and the federal government waived many healthcare rules and regulations in the wake of the pandemic. From loosening medical licensing restrictions and boosting telehealth to repealing misguided and outdated “Certificate of Need” laws, states and the federal government have worked to provide hospitals and providers with maximum flexibility and agility to respond to the pandemic. Turns out, a lot of red tape in health care was never necessary in the first place. Lawmakers should make this de-regulation permanent to make our system more patient-responsive and affordable.
To read more about the way forward for health care, check out IWF’s latest policy focus here.