Mar 21, 2024 - News

Ohio hospitals fail price transparency review

Illustration of a very long hospital bill pierced by fountain pens.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A tiny fraction of Ohio hospitals are fully complying with new federal price transparency rules, per the latest review by advocacy group Patient Rights Advocate.

Why it matters: Price transparency was supposed to usher in a future where patients could shop around for the best deal on medical procedures.

  • But true competition between healthcare providers remains impossible because so many hospitals are failing to comply, per advocates.

What they're saying: "Ohio is probably one of the worst in the country in terms of making prices readily available for patients to see," Cynthia Fisher, the founder and director of Patient Rights Advocate, told Axios. The group has been tracking hospital compliance for three years.

Catch up quick: As of 2021, the federal Hospital Price Transparency Rule requires hospitals to publish prices online in an accessible and searchable format for hundreds of common services.

  • Advocates hope that the data will eventually enable tech companies to develop user-friendly apps to make price comparisons painless.

Reality check: Just 9% of hospitals in Ohio are in full compliance with the rule, per the most recent review.

  • That's far below the 35% rate among the 2,000 hospitals reviewed nationally last month.

Zoom in: All the Ohio hospitals reviewed published pricing lists, but many were incomplete, leaving out costs for certain health plans, per Patient Rights.

  • That means a patient with a high deductible insurance plan might be unable to judge whether a procedure's cash price would be cheaper than going through their insurance — a common scenario, Fisher said.

The other side: Columbus' largest hospital, OhioHealth's Riverside Methodist, was among those deemed noncompliant.

  • A spokesman, Colin Yoder, said OhioHealth is "committed to providing transparent data about potential charges and complies with all applicable laws."
  • He referred patients to the hospital's "robust" online price estimating tool.

Friction point: Groups such as the American Hospital Association have argued that compliance is higher than some reports suggest, Axios' Caitlin Owens reports.

  • Meanwhile, Congress has expressed bipartisan concern over compliance and Patient Rights Advocate has urged President Biden to enforce existing rules more aggressively.

What we're watching: There's been some movement on the issue at the state level, too.

  • Last year the Ohio House passed state level price transparency requirements, but the bill has not progressed in the Senate.

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