In May 2014, King (I-Maine) filed an amendment that would allow the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to shed light on medical device prices in an effort to help hospitals negotiate better prices for critical medical equipment. “I have filed amendment No. 3802 to H.R. 3474, which is the tax extenders bill that is pending. It simply says that when a medical device is being sold, the manufacturer cannot impose a secrecy provision on the hospitals that purchase these devices, and they also have to report median prices to the Secretary of Health and Human Services on a regular basis.”
As various bills seeking to repeal the Medical Device Tax component of the Affordable Care Act wind their way through Congress, King sees his amendment as a common sense measure to help everyone get the most from their healthcare dollars. “It is very difficult to spend money wisely if prices, and comparative prices and prices of your various components of the healthcare system, are kept secret. This is a simple amendment. It is simply based upon the fundamental idea that markets work, but they only work when consumers – in this case, hospitals – have the information necessary to make good purchasing decisions,” King said. “I was surprised to find it is very difficult to find out the price of an implantable medical device. One of the reasons is that the hospitals, which are the purchasers of these devices, are often prevented by agreements with the medical device company from revealing the price they pay. In other words, there is no transparency about the prices of these devices, which find their way into the cost of everybody’s health care. Additionally, he goes on to say “To the extent that prices of implantable medical devices, which are very expensive generally, are not disclosed, the ability of hospitals to bring price information to bear in negotiations and decisions is clearly limited. So I believe that if we’re going to talk about repealing the Medical Device Tax, we should also talk about calling upon the industry to provide consumers and policymakers greater transparency in order to better control cost,” the senator explained.