For decades, U.S. hospitals have generally stonewalled patients who wanted to know ahead of time how much their care would cost. Now that’s changing — but there’s a vigorous debate over what hospitals are disclosing.
Under a federal rule in effect since 2021, hospitals nationwide have been laboring to post a mountain of data online that spells out their prices for every service, drug, and item they provide, including the actual prices they’ve negotiated with insurers and the amounts that cash-paying patients would be charged. They’ve done so begrudgingly and only after losing a lawsuit that challenged the federal rule.
How well they’re doing depends on whom you ask.
The rule aims to pull back the curtain on opaque hospital prices that may vary widely by hospital for the same service or even within the same hospital. The expectation is that price transparency will boost competition, giving consumers and employers a way to compare prices and make informed choices, ultimately driving down the cost of care. Whether that will happen is not yet clear.
Insurers and large employers are also required to post their negotiated prices with all their providers, under separate rules that took effect last summer.
Hospitals have made “substantial progress,” according to an analysis by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services of 600 randomly selected hospitals that was published in the journal Health Affairs last month. The agency looked at whether hospitals had met their obligation to post price information online in two key …