Federal law requires hospitals to list prices. More than half don’t.

June 27, 2022

Last year, the Hospital Price Transparency Law went into effect. It requires hospitals to publish the cash prices for 300 common procedures – both online and in a spreadsheet format – so patients aren’t surprised by a bill later. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says hospitals aren’t complying.

According to NBC News, the report analyzed 5,000 hospitals. Half were not compliant and just 6% had published both price sheets. And patients are still being hit with surprise bills.

Jason Dean cut his knee in May 2021 and went to an emergency room because his local doctors’ offices were closed. Hospital administrators told him stitches would be covered by his insurance, but that wasn’t totally the case.

“I thought it was a joke. It was unbelievable that I opened the bill for $6,500 for a 1-inch simple suture procedure,” Dean told NBC. Insurance covered more than half, but he was still on the hook for $3,000 – something he would have known if the prices had been posted online.

Proponents of the law, including Cynthia Fisher with PatientRightsAdvocate.org, say it’s supposed to create competition between hospitals and hopefully drive down costs.

“Hospitals have been able to keep patients in the dark, blindsiding them with outrageously overcharged medical bills,” Fisher said. “Hospital executives are putting profits over patients by being able to not comply with this rule.”

PatientRightsAdvocate.org audited nearly 1,000 randomly selected hospitals and found that nearly all hospitals owned by the three largest hospital systems in the country aren’t abiding by the law.

So far, the Department of Health and Human Services hasn’t fined any hospitals, despite the minimum penalty of $300 and maximum of $5,500 per day.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said HHS has issued warnings to the hospitals – which is required before a fine.

Have you received a “surprise” medical bill? Share your story with Voices for Affordable Health.