A new rule going into effect January 1, 2019, will require hospitals to post a list of their standard prices online and make electronic medical records more easily available to patients.
The new rule, called the Inpatient Prospective Payment System rule, is part of a Medicare program geared toward pricing transparency in the medical system.
“We are just beginning on price transparency,” said Verma. “We all know that hospitals have this information and we are asking them to post what they have online.”
Hospitals are already required to disclose costs publicly, but this change will put that information online in a machine-readable format that can be easily processed by computers.
It may still prove to be confusing to consumers since standard rates are like listing prices and don’t reflect what insurers and government programs cover.
Patients concerned about their possible out-of-pocket prices from a hospitalization would nevertheless be advised to consult with their insurance carrier.
Most insurance plans have an annual limit on how much patients must pay in copays and deductibles, though traditional Medicare doesn’t.
In the case of online records, many healthcare providers make computerized records available to patients, but starting in 2021 Medicare would base a part of a hospital’s payments on how good a job they do at this task.