Hospitals across the country are gearing up to publish price lists online, detailing all of the services they offer, as a federal law comes into force on January 1.
The rule, which was announced in April, requires hospitals to make standard prices public online. It should also be easier for patients to access their medical records, according to officials.
Currently, under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals must release public price lists, but from the start of 2019 they will be expected to place these online in a format that can be loaded on computers. These figures must be updated every year.
The changes also apply to hospitals in the U.S., including rehabilitation facilities, psychiatric hospitals, and critical access hospitals, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) stated.
Seema Verma, head of the CMS, commented when the program 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.”
However, some have expressed concern that the changes could confuse patients, healthcare business news website Modern Healthcare reported. The figures on a hospital’s website may not match up with those offered by their insurance provider. The website also highlighted that some non-profit hospitals calculate their rates according to the patient’s income.
Jeffrey Bromme, chief legal officer at the non-profit healthcare company Adventist Health System, which has facilities in the South and Midwest, commented to 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.”
However, the CMS countered that their guidelines don’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 adverts.
“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.