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Hospitals to list service costs online Jan. 1 due to new federal rule

Hospitals will be required to post the cost of their standard services online, starting Jan. 1, 2019.

Patients will be able to compare prices before seeking treatment.

However, some consumer advocates say while the information is beneficial, it’s not completely transparent due to insurance price adjustments and other factors.

Hospitals are required to disclose prices publicly, but the latest change would put that information online in machine-readable format that can be easily processed by computers. It may still prove to be confusing to consumers, since standard rates are like list prices and don’t reflect what insurers and government programs pay.

Patients concerned about their potential out-of-pocket costs from a hospitalization would still be advised to consult with their insurer. Most insurance plans nowadays have an annual limit on how much patients must pay in copays and deductibles – although traditional Medicare does not.

Likewise, many health care providers already make computerized records available to patients, but starting in 2021 Medicare would base part of a hospital’s payments on how good a job they do.

Using electronic medical records remains a cumbersome task, and the Trump administration has invited technology companies to design secure apps that would let patients access their records from all their providers instead of having to go to different portals.

ABC13 reached out to local hospitals for their respons to the changes.

Memorial Hermann:

Memorial Hermann will begin posting pricing information on its website on Jan. 1. Beyond publicizing pricing data, Memorial Hermann is embracing the opportunity to make the process of complex healthcare billing as transparent, easy-to-navigate and convenient as possible. We will offer additional assistance to patients and consumers to help them better understand their insurance plans, selected benefits and other financial-related information. Our new Financial Resource Center will include price estimates, an explanation of how the hospital billing process works, a Frequently Asked Questions section, and resources on available payment options. In addition, a dedicated Central Pricing Office can provide more detailed pricing estimates, answer specific questions about insurance coverage and out-of-pocket costs, and assist those who may qualify for financial assistance. As a System, we are committed to placing patients at the center of all that we do, and that includes ensuring that pricing is transparent and easily accessible for all.

Texas Children’s

Posting of the charge master isn’t the best way for patients to understand their true costs because the charge master doesn’t reflect out-of-pocket costs. That’s why, in addition to posting our charge master, we created an estimator tool families can use that can help them better predict their out-of-pocket expenses based on their unique insurance/health plans. This tool will be available online as well. We’ve had the availability to help families estimate this in the past, but it’s been through a team they can call. Moving forward, they will have access to this at their fingertips.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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