Federal court rules hospitals must disclose prices

Health

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CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Beginning January 1, hospitals will have to disclose how much you have to pay for certain services ahead of time. 

A federal judge upheld Tuesday the Trump administration’s ruling which requires insurers to tell consumers upfront the actual prices for common tests and procedures. The American Hospital Association sued to block the ruling, citing that it infringed on hospitals’ First Amendment rights and it exceeded the administration’s legal authority.

The association said the move would require them to divert scarce resources to the “herculean” and “inordinately costly” task of compiling health care costs while reducing competition and causing confusion about patients’ out-of-pocket expenses.

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Circuit Judge David Tatel, however, said concerns about the burdens “miss the mark,” and pointed to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s findings that greater disclosures would benefit the “vast majority” of consumers and likely result in lower, not higher, prices.

“The Secretary weighed the rule’s costs and benefits and made a reasonable judgment that the benefits of easing the burden for consumers justified the added burdens imposed on hospitals,” Tatel wrote.

The final rule requires hospitals to post their “standard charges” online. That means they have to post negotiated insurance payer rates online for 300 services that patients are likely to shop around for.

Seventy requirements include things like X-rays, MRIs, lab work, and joint replacements. But examples provided in the rule differ on what’s considered consumer-friendly price information.

In its appeal, the American Hospital Association said it believes the disclosure of privately negotiated rates won’t help patients understand what they will actually pay for treatment and the rule will only create widespread confusion.

With that appeal just denied Dec. 29 and a new administration coming in on Jan. 20, there are also questions whether hospitals will comply with the new rule.

Hospitals will face a $300 a day fines starting Friday if they don’t comply.

Reuters and NewsNation affiliate WLNS contributed to this report.

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