Under a new federal rule, hospitals will soon be required to post a list of their standard patient charges online.
The move is meant to increase price transparency and encourage patients to become better-educated decision makers when it comes to their own care, according to Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Hospitals are already required to have a public list of their standard charges, but the latest change would make hospitals put that information online in machine-readable format that can be easily processed by computers.
It may still prove to be confusing to consumers, since standard rates are like list prices and don’t reflect what insurers and government programs pay.
One health policy expert told The Washington Post that while posting prices online is useful, it's not as significant as insurance companies helping patients understand what hospital charges they would need to pay themselves.
The new rule takes effect Jan. 1.
Hospitals will be required to update the information annually or "more often as appropriate," according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
KHOU 11 News reached out to local hospitals to see if they're prepared for the new law.
Texas Children's Hospital, Ben Taub Hospital and Memorial Hermann Hospital all say they will be ready to go by January 1st. Methodist Hospital did not return calls for comment.
Memorial Hermann Hospital provided this statement:
Memorial Hermann will begin posting pricing information on its website on Jan. 1. Beyond publicizing pricing data, Memorial Hermann is embracing the opportunity to make the process of complex healthcare billing as transparent, easy-to-navigate and convenient as possible. We will offer additional assistance to patients and consumers to help them better understand their insurance plans, selected benefits and other financial-related information. Our new Financial Resource Center will include price estimates, an explanation of how the hospital billing process works, a Frequently Asked Questions section, and resources on available payment options. In addition, a dedicated Central Pricing Office can provide more detailed pricing estimates, answer specific questions about insurance coverage and out-of-pocket costs, and assist those who may qualify for financial assistance. As a System, we are committed to placing patients at the center of all that we do, and that includes ensuring that pricing is transparent and easily accessible for all.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.