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Hospitals nationwide set to make prices available online in New Year

After the passage of a new rule back in April, hospitals across the country are about to make their prices publicly available on the internet.

The rule is the CMS’s latest effort to give patients more information about the cost of health care and about their own medical history so they can better direct their own care.

The guidance applies mainly to Medicare patients and providers, but officials expect it will influence practices across the nation’s health care system. It is set to take effect Jan. 1.

The prices posted online, however, may not reflect the actual amount most patients pay since insurers and the government negotiate different rates and often cover a major portion of the bill.

“We are just beginning on price transparency,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said. “We know that hospitals have this information and we’re asking them to post what they have online.”

Hospitals are already required to disclose prices publicly but upcoming change would put that information online in machine-readable format that can be easily processed by computers. The new rule also mandates that hospitals update their prices every new year. Those that don’t will face a penalty.

“Our administration is serious about ensuring that when a patient leaves a hospital, they are able to get their medical information electronically,” Verma said.