Hospital Price Transparency

on Tuesday, 04 June 2019. All News Items | Case Management | Documentation | Coding

Beyond the Chargemaster

Over the past several weeks, MMP has written about what is being proposed in the FY 2020 IPPS Proposed Rule. Prior to its release, there seemed to be a high probability that the proposed rule would include additional guidance regarding hospital charges transparency. My assumption was based on the following from a March 8, 2019 Kaiser Health News article written by Steven Findlay:   

  • This article highlighted the fact that CMS Administrator Seema Verma took to twitter in March by posting a Where’s the Price challenge? Specifically, she challenged consumers to visit the website of their local hospital to see if they could find the hospital’s pricing information posted in an electronic format, if you can’t she wants to know by sending her a tweet with the hashtag #WheresThePrice to help drive #PriceTransparency!
  • The article ended by indicating a CMS spokesperson said the agency plans to issue its next regulation on hospital price transparency this year.

While this “next regulation” was not in the Proposed Rule, a May 29th Washington Post article, indicated that President Trump is preparing to issue an executive order regarding greater price transparency that is likely to be announced mid-June. While we wait, this article provides a very high level background of what CMS has required of hospitals in regards to price transparency to date and highlights what the data can tell you by utilizing COPD claims data from our sister company RealTime Medicare Data (RTMD).

Hospital Price Transparency Background

Initially, the Price Transparency requirement was included in the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, section 2718(e) of the Public Health Service Act, required that ‘‘[e]ach hospital operating within the United States shall for each year establish (and update) and make public (in accordance with guidelines developed by the Secretary) a list of the hospital’s standard charges for items and services provided by the hospital, including for diagnosis-related groups established under section 1886(d)(4) of the Social Security Act.’’

CMS reminded hospitals of their obligation to comply with this section of the Act and reiterated the following specific guideline for hospitals in the 2015 IPPS Final Rule:

  • “Either make public a list of their standard charges (whether that be the chargemaster itself or in another form of their choice), or have a policy for allowing the public to view a list of those charges in response to an inquiry.” (FY 2015 IPPS/LTCH Final Rule (79 FR 50146)

Four years later in the 2019 IPPS Final Rule, CMS finalized their proposal, that effective January 1, 2019, hospitals will be required “to make available a list of their current standard charges via the Internet in a machine readable format and to update this information at least annually, or more often as appropriate.”

Subsequent to the FY 2019 Final Rule, CMS released two FAQ documents answering questions from the health care community. First was an October 2019 FAQ document followed by the December 2018 release of “Additional Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Requirements for Hospitals to Make Public a List of Their Standard Charges via the Internet” document.  

The second FAQ document included a question regarding what will happen if a hospital does not comply with this requirement. CMS answer was to reiterate “as indicated in the FY 2019 IPPS/LTCH PPS final rule (83 FR 41686), specific additional future enforcement or other actions that we may take with the guidelines will be addressed in future rulemaking.”

Analyzing the Data

So, you have posted your chargemaster information on your website, do you know how you compare to your competitors? I turned to our sister company RealTime Medicare Data (RTMD) to take a look at what the average inpatient charges are for patients admitted with COPD. The specific parameters of the data review includes the following:  

  • The data is for Medicare fee-for-service claims with a date of service from 10/1/2018 through 12/31/2018.
  • The data is focused on one disease type, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
    • DRG 190: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease with MCC
    • DRG 191: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease with CC
    • DRG 192: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease without CC/MCC
  • Hospitals have been compared to their “Defined Market.” Simply stated, defined markets for a hospital are developed by the facility and all reports are from this perspective. It answers the question: Where did my patients go for treatment?
  • Paid claims data was analyzed for five distinct Defined Markets:
    • Huntsville Hospital in Huntsville, AL
    • Mobile Infirmary in Mobile, AL
    • MUSC in Charleston, SC
    • UAB Hospital in Birmingham, AL
    • University of Kansas Health System, St. Francis Campus

The following table highlights the variation in charges for the care of COPD patients.

COPD Average Charge Compare 
HospitalAverage Charge in the Defined MarketHospital Specific Average ChargeHighest Average Charge in Defined Market
Huntsville Hospital $28,817 $33,127 $90,796
Mobile Infirmary $32,708 $21,167 $87,036
MUSC $39,726 $31,800 $101,858
UAB Hospital $31,221 $22,239 $77,984
University of Kansas, St. Francis Campus $22,265 $25,933 $74,880
Data Source: RealTime Medicare Data (RTMD) 

For those interested, the links in the above table are to pdf downloads which provide a view of each of these hospital’s defined market average COPD charges.  

Additional Price Transparency Resources:

In November 2018 CMS launched new online tools displaying cost differences for certain surgical procedures (link to CMS press release:

AHA Toolkit for Achieving Price Transparency cost data includes 40M insured individuals and was created with the goal “to give you insight into health care costs and quality so you can be informed and get the most out of every dollar you spend” (

Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


Article by Beth Cobb

Beth Cobb, RN, BSN, ACM, CCDS, is the Manager of Clinical Analytics at Medical Management Plus, Inc.  Beth has over twenty-five years of experience in healthcare including eleven years in Case Management at a large multi-facility health system. 

In her current position, Beth is a principle writer for MMP’s Wednesday@One weekly e-newsletter, an active member of our HIPAA Compliance Committee, MMP’s Education Department Program Director and co-developer of MMP’s proprietary Compliance Risk Assessment (CRA) Tool. You may contact Beth at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This material was compiled to share information.  MMP, Inc. is not offering legal advice.  Every reasonable effort has been taken to ensure the information is accurate and useful.

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