QUESTION: Is there some new rule that hospitals have to publish their charges?
ANSWER: Yes. The Affordable Care Act requires that hospitals make their charges public. In the 2015 Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment Systems regulations, CMS said that hospitals could comply with this requirement either by making public a list of their standard charges (whether that be the chargemaster itself or in another form of their choice), or their policies for allowing the public to view a list of those charges in response to an inquiry. CMS said that while posting the charges on the hospital’s website would be one way to meet the requirement, hospitals are in the best position to determine the exact manner and method by which to make the list public. CMS encourages hospitals to undertake efforts to engage in “consumer-friendly” communication of their charges to help patients understand what their potential financial liability might be for services they obtain at the hospital, and to enable patients to compare charges for similar services across hospitals. Hospitals should update the information at least annually, or more often as appropriate, to reflect current charges.