By Consumers for Quality Care, on October 25, 2023
A recent study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal, and reported by The Washington Post, found that the quoted cost of childbirth in the United States varied greatly, not only among different hospitals, but even within the same hospital.
In 2021, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented the hospital price transparency rule which requires hospitals to state the prices of various medical services online in an accessible format. As stated by Cynthia Fisher, founder of Patient Rights Advocate, this price transparency shifts “power to the patients to be able to lower their costs.”
Researchers for this study tested how well hospitals are complying with federal price transparency rules by comparing prices for medical procedures listed online with quotes obtained over the phone. They found that of the 22 hospitals that provided both online and over the phone prices for childbirth, only three provided matching costs. A hospital in Minnesota, for example, listed a charge online of $30,000 for childbirth. But when asked over the phone, that same hospital reported a price of just $5,000.
Peter Cram, the Chair of Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch and author of the study, says that hospital staff seemed unaware prices were available to the public “and sometimes the prices seemed outright erroneous.”
Hospitals should not have varying prices depending on how a quote was obtained. Nor should prices be arbitrarily set for necessary medical procedures. CQC calls on hospitals to fully comply with federal price transparency rules for consumers and allow them to access standardized pricing for the care that they need.