U.S.

Hospital Prices: Full Cost Lists Must Be Published From January 1, New Federal Rule Says

Hospitals across the country have geared up to publish online price lists for all the medical services they provide, as a federal law takes effect on January 1.

The new law, which was announced in April, should also make it easier for patients to get access to their medical records, according to officials. 

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Currently, under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals must release public price lists, but from the start of 2019 they will be required to post these prices online in a format that can be downloaded to computers. These prices must be updated every year.

The changes also apply to rehabilitation facilities, psychiatric hospitals and critical access hospitals, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stated.

Seema Verma, the CMS administrator, said when the new requirement was confirmed: “We are just beginning on price transparency.

“We know that hospitals have this information and we’re asking them to post what they have online.”

But there's some concern that the price lists could cause confusion, according to health care business news website Modern Healthcare. The prices on a hospital's website may not match those paid by their insurance provider, or Medicare. The website also highlighted that some not-for-profit hospitals calculate their rates according to a patient’s income.

Jeffrey Bromme, chief legal officer at the nonprofit healthcare company Adventist Health System, which has facilities in the South and Midwest, told Modern Healthcare: "A hospital's charges are not as relevant to a patient because the patient's bill may be significantly discounted or the services are provided at no charge under the hospital's charity policy."

Tom Nickels, executive vice president for government affairs and public policy at the American Hospital Association, told Modern Healthcare: “We do not want patients to forgo needed care, especially if the quoted price is for the total cost of the service and not what the patient will be expected to pay out-of-pocket.”

CMS countered that its guidelines didn't prevent hospitals from providing this information to patients and the public, Modern Healthcare reported.

Last month, the CMS put forward separate plans to require pharmaceutical companies to publish the prices of drugs available on Medicare and Medicaid in TV advertisements..

“This historic proposal is an important way to create new incentives for drug companies to start lowering their list prices, rather than raising them,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, according to the Hospital and Palliative Care Network of Maryland.

hospital staff getty stock From the start of 2019, all hospitals must publish their price lists in full. Getty Images

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