The first fines have been issued against hospitals that have not yet posted online the prices of hundreds of common procedures, more than a year after a federal law went into effect.
The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services took action on June 7 against two Northside Hospitals in Georgia for not complying with the Hospital Price Transparency Law, which requires cash prices and insurance plan negotiated rates for services such as X-rays, medical tests and colonoscopies to be listed online.
Northside Hospital in Atlanta was fined $883,180 and Northside Cherokee Hospital in Canton $214,320 for not making “standard charges public,” according to a CMS notice.
The law, enacted on Jan. 1, 2021, is intended to help Americans know what they'll be charged for hospital services, particularly elective or scheduled procedures, so they can shop around. The information required to be made public includes the rate the hospital negotiates with insurance companies and the discounted price a hospital will accept if a patient pays in cash.
The CMS fines were issued the same day a JAMA study found hospital systems across the country were largely ignoring the law.
“While this step is long overdue, we hope it will incentivize the roughly 86 percent of hospitals flouting the law to do the right thing and provide real upfront prices so Americans can finally benefit from real transparency,” said Cynthia Fisher, founder and chairman of PatientRightsAdvocate.Org. “Penalizing only two hospitals almost 18 months in is not nearly enough enforcement.”
More hospitals are likely to be hit with fines. NBC News reported this week that hundreds of warning letters had been sent to noncompliant hospitals ahead of issuing fines, according to the Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra.
If you’ve encountered a hospital that isn’t complying with the Hospital Price Transparency law, file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services here.