Most of US News' top hospitals not in compliance with price transparency rules, study finds

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Just one of the top 20 hospitals ranked by the U.S. News & World Report displayed minimum negotiated charges on its website, suggesting that many hospitals still are not fully in compliance with the new CMS price disclosure rule, according to a study published June 21 in The American Journal of Managed Care.

The CMS final rule, which took effect Jan 1., aims to make hospital pricing information readily available to patients to compare costs and make more informed healthcare decisions. To aid with this, hospitals in the U.S. are required to post both a machine-readable file with the negotiated rates for all items and services and display the prices of 300 shoppable services in a consumer-friendly format. 

For the new study, researchers evaluated the public websites of the 20 hospitals listed in the 2020-2021 U.S. News & World Report honor roll between Feb. 1 and Feb. 14. Researchers evaluated hospital websites for five common shoppable services: brain MRI, abdominal ultrasound, cardiac valve surgery, total joint replacement and vaginal childbirth. The researchers determined for each service and hospital whether the cash price and minimum negotiated charge were available to patients. 

The survey found that of the top 20 hospitals, 13 displayed the cash prices for both brain MRIs and abdominal ultrasounds, 10 posted prices for joint replacements, 10 reported cash prices for childbirth and eight reported cash prices for cardiac valve surgery.  

In comparison, negotiated rates were less likely to be published. Only one of the 20 hospitals displayed the negotiated price for brain MRIs and abdominal ultrasounds. None of the hospitals displaced negotiated prices for hospital services. 

"A significant percentage of highly respected U.S. hospitals are not in compliance with new price transparency legislation, and there is wide variation among hospitals in the prices for identical services," study authors concluded.

Study authors noted that the study had several limitations, including that it is limited to the 20 hospitals and five shoppable services and that it only evaluated availability of pricing on hospital websites.

Past studies have found similar outcomes. In particular, a study published June 14 in JAMA Internal Medicine found that most hospitals are opting to pay the maximum $300 per day noncompliance fee rather than face the potential costs of price disclosure.

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