“We are providing hospitals with the flexibility to determine how they make a list of their standard charges public,” according to the CMS proposal. “We encourage hospitals to undertake efforts to engage in consumer-friendly communication of their charges to help patients understand what their potential financial liability might be.”
But the proposal, buried in a lengthy inpatient-payment rule issued last week, is unlikely to cause transparency advocates to pop Champagne corks. That's because hospitals would be required to tell the public only what they charge, not the rates they actually receive from private insurers. Charge information is widely seen as less useful for consumers in high-deductible plans who are shopping for lower-priced providers. Another limitation is that hospitals could fulfill the requirement by allowing the public access to the charge data after an inquiry, the CMS said.