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Bipartisan Energy & Commerce Health Leaders Urge HHS to Enforce Hospital Transparency Rule

Posted on Tuesday, April 13, 2021
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hospitalEnergy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Full Committee Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), and Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Brett Guthrie (R-KY) wrote to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra today regarding implementation of the Hospital Price Transparency Final Rule, which went into effect on January 1, 2021, and the need to ensure that hospitals are complying with the new rule.

“We are concerned about troubling reports of some hospitals either acting slowly to comply with the requirements of the final rule, or not taking any action to date to comply,” the bipartisan Committee leaders wrote. “We urge you to ensure that [HHS] conducts vigorous oversight and enforces full compliance with the final rule.”  

The Hospital Price Transparency Final Rule requires hospitals to make public a machine-readable file containing a list of all the standard charges for all items and services, and to display charges for the hospital’s 300 most shoppable services in a consumer-friendly format. Under the final rule, hospitals are required to make public the gross charges, the discount cash price, the payer-specific negotiated charges, and the de-identified minimum and maximum negotiated charges for all items and services. For hospitals found to be noncompliant, HHS can issue written warnings, request a corrective action plan, and issue monetary penalties for prolonged noncompliance.

A recent Health Affairs study of hospital compliance found 65 of the nation’s 100 largest hospitals were “unambiguously non-compliant” between late January 2021 to early February 2021 and eighteen percent of those hospitals either did not post any files or provided links to databases that were not downloadable.

The four Committee leaders also voiced concern that some hospitals disclosing their listed prices are making it difficult for consumers to access the price information. The Wall Street Journal reported that some hospitals that have published their standard charges have blocked the information from appearing on search engines with special coding embedded on their websites. According to other reports, some hospitals have made the information inaccessible to consumers by burying the price information in their websites and requiring multiple clicks through layers of webpages in order to access the list of charges.

The members concluded, “We share your commitment to increasing price transparency for consumers and employers. To that end, we urge HHS to enforce the final rule to ensure hospitals are fully compliant with the disclosure requirements so that patients can readily access the price information for all items and services in an easy-to-use format. Given the widespread non-compliance by hospitals, we urge HHS to revisit its enforcement tools, including the amount of the civil penalty, and to conduct regular audits of hospitals for compliance.”

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