CMS has finalized the rule requiring hospitals to post a list of their standard charges online. The list must be provided in machine readable format and updated as often as necessary to keep the list current (minimum once per year).
The healthcare industry has traditionally struggled with operationalizing price transparency. The reasons for the struggle are myriad. From the maze of contracts with health plans that dictate different terms of payment, to the general discomfort with quoting a firm price for a procedure sight unseen due to the variability of potential patient outcomes, to the variability in physician preferences and prescribing patterns for inpatients, coming up with a firm price has been a moving target. The CMS final rule requiring hospitals to post a list of standard charges is a necessary shove in the right direction but there will be pain associated with making this information available to a patient population that experiences the price of care as a co-pay or deductible and has limited perspective on the actual cost of the care they receive.