The requirement was intended to increase transparency of health care costs and even make it possible to shop around for the best price of, for example, a mammogram. But just 1 in 5 hospitals are making the information available.
“Our findings are limited by the fact that we used a dedicated team to obtain these data and real-world accessibility by patients and their caregivers may be even lower,” the authors wrote.
The study was published this week in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
There are two parts of the transparency requirement: comprehensive price information must be available online, and a standard charges list or estimation tool for 300 common “shoppable” services must be published.
For the study, researchers assessed the availability of cost information from 64 hospitals that were representative of the 3,155 hospitals nationwide that must comply with the requirement. Among hospitals studied, those in areas with more competition were more likely to be compliant.
Previous studies have shown similarly poor compliance, and the authors called the persistent shortcomings “a matter of concern.”
Non-compliance is punishable by fines. The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services fined two hospitals last year after previously warning them that they were out of compliance. Northside Hospital Atlanta was fined $883,180 and Northside Hospital Cherokee was fined $214,320. Both hospitals are located in Georgia.
U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: “Hospital Price Transparency,” “Enforcement Actions.”
Journal of General Internal Medicine: “Hospital Adherence to the Federal Price Transparency Mandate: Results from a Nationally Representative Sample.”
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