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Study Assesses Availability of Prices for Shoppable Services on Hospital Internet Sites

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A regulation from CMS required that, starting January 1, 2021, all US hospitals publicly display the cash price and minimum and minimum negotiated charge for 300 “shoppable services.” A new cross-sectional study of hospital Websites, published in AJMC, evaluated compliance with CMS requirements among highly respected US hospitals.

Researchers evaluated the public websites of the 20 hospitals listed in the 2020-2021 US News & World Report honor roll between February 1 and February 14, 2021, selecting 2 imaging studies (brain MRI and abdominal ultrasound) and 3 hospital services (cardiac valve surgery, total joint replacement, and vaginal childbirth). For each service and hospital, they determined whether the discounted cash price and minimum negotiated charge were displayed and, if displayed, what the prices were.

Researchers found only 60% of hospitals display their cash prices and 5% display their minimum negotiated charges on their public websites.  Among the 20 hospitals in the study, 13 (65%) displayed the cash prices for the MRI and ultrasound, 8 (40%) for valve surgery, 10 (50%) for joint replacement, and 10 (50%) for childbirth. Only 1 (5%) displayed the minimum negotiated price for the 2 imaging studies and none for any of the hospital services.

This early assessment found a significant percentage of US hospitals were not in compliance with new price transparency legislation. Moreover, there is wide variation in prices among hospitals for identical services. These price differences suggest the potential for significant cost savings for patients.

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