"I think the new trend in medicine is going to be to encourage transparency in pricing, as well as transparency in quality ... How do we encourage consumerism? ... Well, one thing you do is you make sure people understand their options, how much something costs."
--President Bush on Aug. 22, commenting on healthcare transparency before signing his executive order promoting quality and efficiency in federally administered or sponsored healthcare programs
In August, during a stop in Minnesota, President Bush "went public" about transparency--urging that better information be made available to the public about the costs and quality of health care. The president then signed an executive order requiring four federal agencies to compile information about the price of care and the quality of care they receive and to make that information available to the public and to each other. The four agencies are the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
These agencies are directed, where possible, to complete four actions:
* Make their information systems "interoperable"--i.e., be able to interact with each other.
* Enact quality measurement programs that have developed with the private sector.
* Make price information on common procedures available to beneficiaries.
* Identify practices that promote high-quality care.
The executive order also specified that these actions should not incur additional costs to the federal government--a point that may not please those private-sector providers that continue to look to the federal government to pay for such efforts.
This event represents an important next step in the administration's campaign to increase transparency in health care. Earlier in 2006, the president participated in a panel discussion at HHS, which had been...