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Fat Joe wants hospital price transparency. Here's how he's fighting for it in D.C.

Fat Joe arrives at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 13. The Bronx-born rapper sat with NPR's A Martínez to discuss how he advocates for price transparency and what he wants politicians in D.C. to do about it.
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Invision/AP
Fat Joe arrives at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 13. The Bronx-born rapper sat with NPR's A Martínez to discuss how he advocates for price transparency and what he wants politicians in D.C. to do about it.

Rapper Fat Joe says, "Millions of people are getting robbed."

In a public service announcement by Power to the Patients, he adds that it's "not by the guys you might think. But by hospital and insurance company executives. They crooks."

That's why the Bronx-born rapper is urging officials in Washington, D.C., for price transparency in health care.

In 2021, an executive order issued by then-President Trump went into effect, requiring hospitals to make the prices of health services public. President Biden later signed an executive order instructing the Department of Health and Human Services to enforce it.

But a 2023 report by the nonprofit Patient Rights Advocate found that most hospitals are not complying with those rules.

Fat Joe told Morning Edition's A Martínez that he has a message to politicians: "Times up. … It's time that you do exactly what you been voted to do: is pass a law that will actually help the American families, give them excellent quality in health care as well as the best price."

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can hear this conversation using the audio player at the top of the page.

A Martínez: So tell us, why should hospitals be required to put prices for services somewhere public where people can see them?

Fat Joe: Well, there's a rule now. Donald Trump put [it] into place as a matter of fact. But it's not being enforced. The reason why pricing is so important is because anything else we do in the world comes with a price. And we know exactly what it is. What is the mystery of the hospitals that they can't tell you the price of a procedure? You can look at the three leading hospitals in your area — the discrepancy is incredible. Somebody is going to have an MRI for $1,200. Someone's going to have it for $8,800. Someone's going to have it for $40,000. So you get to choose what hospital you want to go to to have the procedure done.

Martínez: So the legislation that you want to see passed would make health care providers show that price for the different procedures. It doesn't necessarily do anything to give power to patients to help lower prices. Does it go far enough?

Fat Joe: It will, because now that they present the price, it will create a competition.

Martínez: You attended President Biden's State of the Union address in March. What do you want to see from him when it comes to price transparency in health care?

Fat Joe: I want to see them all pass the law that Sen. Mike Braun, who's a Republican, and Bernie Sanders, who's an independent Democrat, are putting forth. And when it comes to the president, I want him to be proactive about it. He does a lot for the people, but I think he needs to be more engaged with this.

Martínez: How much of a difference do you think it would make if former President Trump wins in November?

Fat Joe: You know, we live in a democracy, so every four years, anything could change. So if Donald Trump becomes president, then we gotta deal with him to get it done. This ain't about Republican, this isn't about Democrat — this is about the people. And so when I went to the president's address, I snuck into the Republican dinner they had with the speaker of the House, Mike Johnson. I walked up in there, and he turned around and said, "Oh my God, Fat Joe, you're giving me street cred." And I was like, "What's up, man?" And we took some pictures. Talked to all the Republicans in there. And then I went to the Democrat side and met with Hakeem Jeffries and everybody else. And so when you're trying to get a law passed, when you're trying to get progress for the people, you gotta be able to deal with the Democrats and the Republicans.

Martínez: You've been doing this for a few years now. Do you feel like you're making progress? 

Fat Joe: Absolutely. I walk in the airport — which now, you know, it's pretty much the only place I see human beings now, just average human beings. Because, you know, I'm a little bit famous these days. And people come up to me and hug me at 4 in the morning, 6 in the morning. They say, "Thank you for what you're doing for the health care. Thank you, Joe. This is the most important thing you've ever done. Sure. Your music. We love your acting. This is the most important thing you're doing for the people." I mean, if that ain't gratifying, I don't know what is.

The digital version of this story was edited by Treye Green and Obed Manuel.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Corrected: June 5, 2024 at 7:51 AM EDT
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that then-President Donald Trump issued an executive order in 2021 that required hospitals to make the prices of health services public. Trump issued the executive order in 2019 and it went into effect in 2021.
Milton Guevara
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Adam Bearne
Adam Bearne is an editor for Morning Edition who joined the team in August 2022.
A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.