Biden admin to stiffen penalty on hospitals for hiding prices

Politico Pro

July 19, 2021 11:39 am

The Biden administration is proposing harsher fines for hospitals that don’t publish the prices they charge, strengthening a new Trump-era transparency measure opposed by the industry.

What happened: The Biden administration, citing early reports that many hospitals are not complying with the new requirements, wants to up the maximum annual penalty from $109,500 to $2 million per hospital.

Hospitals as of Jan. 1 have been required to publicize rates for 300 common services in easy-to-read formats. Many experts thought that the penalty for noncompliance — $300 per day — wasn’t strong enough to force some hospitals to disclose negotiated rates that had long been kept private.

CMS wants to require hospitals to ensure that patients can download the list of prices and find them in website searches. CMS notes that some hospitals had embedded the information on their website without ways for consumers to “easily or directly download” the information in an easy-to-read file. Other hospitals had employed methods that made it difficult or impossible for search engines to discover the data.

Why the change: Patient advocates have complained that only a sliver of hospitals are complying with the transparency rules meant to arm patients with more information about the cost of care. Hospitals, who lost a last-minute court battle to overturn the policy, said the requirements were burdensome.