CMS issued over 300 warnings, but no fines, to hospitals falling short on price transparency last year

After roughly a year of requiring hospitals to publicly post their prices, the top federal health regulator has delivered hundreds of warnings but has not yet seen fit to issue any civil monetary penalties.

As of an early December tally, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) had issued roughly 335 warning notices to hospitals it determined to be out of compliance with its Hospital Price Transparency regulations effective Jan. 1, 2021, according to a CMS spokesperson. These written warnings outline a specific issue for the noncompliant hospital to address.

Additionally, the agency has issued to noncompliant hospitals 98 requests for a corrective action plan, according to the spokesperson. These hospitals had previously received a warning but had not yet corrected deficiencies that constitute a material violation of one or more Hospital Price Transparency requirements, the agency spokesperson said.

Of the hospitals that received corrective action plan requests, 23 have addressed their citations and received a case closure notice from CMS, according to the spokesperson.

RELATED: CMS finalizes fee hikes for hospital price transparency requirements

The agency said it has not yet needed to issue any civil monetary penalties to noncompliant hospitals because, to date, each hospital that has come under compliance review has either resolved its issues or is in the process of doing so.

CMS said any hospitals that do receive a civil monetary penalty will have their name published on the Hospital Price Transparency section of its website.

Industrywide compliance with CMS’ transparency requirements was notoriously pockmarked, with numerous analyses from researchers and consulting firms detailing inconsistencies throughout the year.

Hospitals, for their part, often pointed to what they consider to be confusing or imprecise language in CMS’ rule as a barrier to their good faith efforts to reach compliance.

While CMS has yet to flex its muscles, the agency is packing more disciplinary firepower in the second year of price transparency enforcement—to the pleasure of some and the disappointment of others. Whereas noncompliance could cost a hospital of the appropriate size up to $300 per day (roughly $110,000 per year) during 2021, that penalty has since been increased to $5,500 per day (more than $2 million a year) for 2022.