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UNITED STATES — A new federal rule effective January 1 requires all hospitals to post an online list of the cost of their standard services.

The new rule, called the Inpatient Prospective Payment System rule, is part of a Medicare program aimed at pricing transparency in the healthcare system. It allows patients to compare prices before seeking treatment.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed policy changes include:

  • Requiring hospitals to post their standard list of prices on the Internet and in a machine-readable format, rather than just being required to make them available in some capacity.
  • Focusing the Electronic Health Record Incentive Program on promoting interoperability, to allow patients to  control and access their records.
  • Eliminating duplicative, overly burdensome or out-of-date quality measures through the “Meaningful Measures” initiative.

Some consumer advocates argue that the lists hospitals currently disclose don’t do enough to inform patients about adjusted and sometimes increased costs due to insurance and other factors.

This new law should change that, however there may still be confusion to consumers because the hospital’s standard rates do not reflect what insurance companies and government programs pay.

Patients concerned about their potential out-of-pocket costs from a hospitalization should still consult with their insurance company.