Hospitals across the U.S. will have to post prices of standard services online in a machine-readable format starting Jan. 1, 2019.

The policy changes were first proposed in April of this year. HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said this change, along with others, would advance Secretary Alex Azar’s agenda “for moving to a healthcare system that pays for value, as well as a request for information regarding future value-based reforms.”

The reporting must list every item and service by the hospital, as well as any charges related for them as it is represented in the hospital’s list of official rates.

According to the Texas Hospital Association, hospitals throughout the state currently use Texas PricePoint, which is an online portal that is designed to provide information on prices for the most common inpatient services and quality data. The portal also includes contact information for Texas hospitals.

Seema Verma, administrator of CMS, said in a November blog post that price transparency is a priority for the Trump Administration. Verma also announced a new consumer resource, called Procedure Price Lookup. It is a tool that allows patients to compare Medicare payments and co-payments for certain procedures that are both performed in hospital outpatient departments and ambulatory surgical centers.

“Giving patients access to data is just the first step – we also need to drive towards consumer-friend tools presenting information that is both personal and actionable at the time people seek care,” Verma wrote. “We need to meet patients where they are and integrate cost information into their health care decision making, making it easy for patients to analyze cost differences across all care options.  The case for price transparency throughout the health care system is clear, and the need to shop is growing ever more compelling as high deductible plans become the norm.

But, Lunsford said the number on the price list posted by each hospital will likely not match what’s on a patient’s final bill.

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