CMS Administrator Seema Verma on Tuesday criticized hospitals and insurers for opposing the Trump administration's efforts to increase price transparency, saying they want to maintain the status quo even if it's not in patients' best interests.
Verma took providers and payers to task for getting in the way of new policies that she believes would improve healthcare quality, improve access to care and slash healthcare spending over the long run. People that oppose the Trump administration's efforts on price transparency like the status quo but that's not fair to patients, she said.
"The status quo works for (hospitals and insurers) by hiding prices and they take advantage of that," Verma said during an interview at the U.S. News Healthcare of Tomorrow conference in Washington. "It's not about the consumer. It's not about patients."
Her comments came in the wake of industry pushback to recently finalized and proposed rules that force hospitals to open their books and reveal their negotiated rates with insurers and another that makes insurers give enrollees information about prices and cost-sharing before they receive treatment.
Hospitals and insurers say that the measures will create more administrative work for them without helping patients or decreasing healthcare spending. But the Trump administration and several healthcare experts think hospitals and insurers are just looking out for themselves and their financial interests.
"These special interest groups are interested in doing things the same old way," Verma said.
Verma also chided hospitals for going after patients that can't afford to pay their medical bills, especially those without insurance.
"Not-for-profit hospitals are taking people to court over prices they would never charge anybody else," Verma said.
Most people are frustrated with high healthcare costs, surprise billing and expensive drug prices. That's led to calls for more government intervention in the healthcare system, including Medicare-for-all plans that would fundamentally change the U.S. healthcare system, Verma said. She doesn't think that's the right way to go, but she understands the sentiment.
"Now there are people who are calling for the complete abolishment of the insurance industry," she said. "We should be listening. People are frustrated and they want change."