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Trump zeroes in on surprise medical bills in White House chat with patients, experts


 


President Trump on Jan. 23 instructed administration officials to investigate how to prevent surprise medical bills, broadening his focus on drug prices to include other issues of price transparency in health care.

Medical Bills DNY59/gettyimages

Flanked by patients and other guests invited to the White House to share their stories of unexpected and outrageous bills, Trump tasked his health secretary, Alex Azar, and labor secretary, Alex Acosta, with working on a solution, several attendees said.

“The pricing is hurting patients, and we’ve stopped a lot of it, but we’re going to stop all of it,” Mr. Trump said during a roundtable discussion when reporters were briefly allowed into the otherwise closed-door meeting.

David Silverstein, the founder of a Colorado-based nonprofit called Broken Healthcare who attended, said Mr. Trump struck an aggressive tone, calling for a solution with “the biggest teeth you can find.”

“Reading the tea leaves, I think there’s big change coming,” Mr. Silverstein said.

Surprise billing, or the practice of charging patients for care that is more expensive than anticipated or not covered by their insurance, has received a flood of attention in the past year, particularly as Kaiser Health News and other news organizations have undertaken investigations into patients’ most outrageous medical bills.

Attendees said each of 10 invited guests – among them patients as well as doctors with their own stories of unexpected bills – was given an opportunity to talk, though Mr. Trump did not stay to hear all of their stories during the roughly hour-long gathering.

The group included Paul Davis, a retired doctor from Findlay, Ohio, whose family’s experience with a $17,850 bill for a simple urine test was detailed in a KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” feature last year.

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