New Rule Requires Hospitals to Post Prices Online

Thousands of hospitals must publish their standard charges online starting in January. But it might hurt more than it helps, critics say.

New Rule Requires Hospitals to Post Prices Online Photo by goodluz / Shutterstock.com

You will soon be able to find the prices that a hospital charges online.

A recently finalized federal regulation includes a provision that requires hospitals to make a list of their current standard charges available online and to update the list at least annually. This provision takes effect Jan. 1.

The new rule “will affect approximately 3,330 acute care hospitals,” according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that issues a new version of the regulation each year.

CMS described the provision on hospital charges as part of “an effort to encourage price transparency” by giving the public more accessibility to pricing information.

Federal law already requires hospitals to establish a list of their standard charges and make it available to the public. But currently, they are only required to make it available upon request, according to the industry publication Becker’s Hospital Review.

Potential downsides

While requiring hospitals to post prices online is a step in the right direction for consumers, some health care providers are concerned that it could confuse consumers, Modern Healthcare reports.

The publication explains:

“Hospitals argue that a list of charges could be misleading because they don’t reflect prices negotiated by insurers. In addition, not-for-profit hospitals must provide reduced rates or charity care based on patient household income.”

Other health care providers tell Modern Healthcare that increased price transparency could prompt some patients to avoid seeking care.

Similar changes

The hospital charge provision comes amid other efforts by federal agencies to increase health care price transparency.

We detail the results of some of those other efforts in:

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Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More

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