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Hospitals vary in publishing CMS chargemaster prices | Modern Healthcare Transformation Hub – Modern Healthcare

Price transparency stumbled out of the gate last week as hospitals complied with a new CMS requirement to publish their lengthy list of retail charges for individual services and diagnosis-related groups in online spreadsheets by the first of the year.

Some hospitals, such Northwestern Memorial in Chicago, posted a link to their charges right on their home pages. Most others, such as HCA’s Aventura Hospital, posted the data deeper inside their websites, requiring a search and multiple clicks. One system, MedStar, said it won’t post the information until next week because it’s still working to ensure accuracy and clarity.

In the case of Sutter Health, the information appeared on the system’s website as a blob of incomprehensible script. A Sutter spokeswoman said the data was published in the .JSON format, which she called “a machine-readable format that complies with the rule.”

Even when the chargemaster data were published prominently and clearly, hospital executives and consumer advocates say the information is useless or even misleading to the general public.

“The unfortunate thing is that for most consumers, because it’s standard charges not related to their coverage, it’s not that helpful,” said Rick Gundling, senior vice president of the Healthcare Financial Management Association. “It was an exercise that doesn’t add a lot of value to the consumer.”

Meanwhile, officials at hospitals that have invested in online tools allowing patients to get reliable estimates of how much they would pay out of pocket for various services hoped publicity about the new sticker prices would draw attention to their more consumer-friendly transparency efforts. These include Baylor Scott & White Health in Texas, St. Clair Hospital in Pittsburgh, and El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, Calif.

In explaining the CMS-required price data on their websites, these hospital systems encouraged consumers to use their personalized cost estimators for calculating out-of-pocket prices. Those estimates are based on individual consumers’ health plan benefits and deductible status.

“It’s shining a light on something we’re excited to already have worked on,” said Julie Smith, a spokeswoman at Baylor Scott & White. “We think our tool is something patients will find more useful.”

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Hospitals vary in publishing CMS chargemaster prices – Modern Healthcare Transformation Hub – Modern Healthcare.