North Texas Medical Center and at least one other hospital affiliated with Community Hospital Corp., NTMC’s parent organization, have posted lists of their standard charges online this week after the Register reported last weekend that NTMC had missed a Jan. 1 deadline to do so.
New federal transparency requirements from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued in August 2018 require hospitals to post a spreadsheet of their standard charges to their websites.
Late Wednesday, Feb. 6, NTMC issued a press release indicating it had received clarification regarding the new requirement correcting earlier advice the hospital had gotten. The hospital also posted a list of its standard charges online Wednesday.
The hospital’s release stated NTMC worked with CHC to meet the deadline for new transparency postings. It blamed confusion arising from CMS’s own guidelines for the missed deadline.
“Due to the confusion and lack of clarity about the rule, we sought out the advice of Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) and Panacea,” the release states. HFMA advises more than 38,000 members in healthcare finance and Panacea provides healthcare revenue software and expertise.
NTMC indicated both organizations advised that the hospital could comply with the new regulation either by posting its standard charges or by offering to let someone have a list of standard charges if they ask for it.
Based on that, the hospital decided to post contact information ahead of the Jan. 1 deadline for how to receive a list of charges, the release stated, to avoid confusion. What the patient actually ends up footing the bill for varies depending on insurance and discounts, according to the release.
Most other CHC-affiliated or managed hospitals took a similar route. A review by the Register of CHC hospitals’ websites Tuesday found that one out of the 21 hospitals affiliated with or managed by CHC had posted its standard charges.
After the Register asked an NTMC spokeswoman why the hospital’s standard charges weren’t available online, the hospital sought clarification from CMS.
“When CMS replied, they acknowledged that their current guidance regarding hospital price transparency is indeed ‘confusing,’” NTMC’s release states. The agency told the hospital that the rule’s intent was “was for hospitals to post a list of standard prices on their websites,” according to the release.
“CHC and NTMC welcomed this clarification and, accordingly, the hospital website now includes a list of standard prices,” the release states.
By midday Thursday, at least one more CHC hospital had posted its standard charges, the Register found, though most had yet to do so.
CHC spokeswoman Anne Block said CMS “acknowledged that there has been a lot of confusion related to this regulation because it was not presented in a clear and organized manner, leading to many interpretations of the intent of the requirement.”
“CHC is working with our affiliated and managed hospitals to ensure that each hospital’s pricing data is posted as soon as possible,” Block said in an email.
CMS has not instituted a penalty for hospitals that don’t post their standard charges online.