4 ways CMS is trying to improve hospital price transparency in 2023

Two CMS officials outlined steps the agency is exploring to boost hospital price transparency compliance in a Feb. 14 article in Health Affairs

The article was authored by CMS Deputy Administrator and Director Meena Seshamani, MD, PhD, and CMS Chief Transformation Officer Douglas Jacobs, MD. 

In the article, the officials said there was a substantial increase in hospitals meeting website assessment criteria last year, jumping from 27 percent in 2021 to 70 percent in 2022, "in the context of an increase in noncompliance penalties and significant education, monitoring and enforcement activities."

The officials said that, despite the progress made since the rule went into effect in January 2021, they are "aware of how much work many hospitals still have to do." They outlined four next steps CMS is exploring to further boost compliance:

1. CMS is seeking feedback from interested parties and recently held a listening session to hear from consumer groups about the most important ways to display information to consumers. 

2. CMS is exploring how to further drive standardized reporting of price transparency. In November, the agency made a template with a standardized set of data elements for machine-readable files that hospitals could choose to adopt. 

The agency will speak with consumers, hospitals, academic researchers, innovators and other experts about how it can build upon this standardization effort. 

3. The agency is continuing to explore ways to make it easier for the public to find and access hospital machine-readable files. CMS has received feedback that the varied locations where the files can be posted make them difficult to locate. On multiple occasions, CMS' hospital price transparency compliance team found files online when responding to a complaint alleging that a hospital failed to post a file. 

Improved methods would be considered for future rule-making, including mandating the centralization of information, or "being more prescriptive about the placement of the link on a hospital’s website."

4. CMS is exploring ways to streamline enforcement efforts. These include expediting the timeframes by which it requires hospitals to come into full compliance after submitting a corrective action plan. 

The agency said it also plans to take "aggressive additional steps to identify and prioritize action against hospitals that have failed entirely to post files."

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