Only 1 in 10 patients know hospitals are now required to post their prices online, survey finds

Knowledge of the price disclosure requirement (9%) and attempts to find that information online (14%) were both rare among adults surveyed in a recent poll. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ price transparency mandate took effect Jan. 1, although several reports have suggest low compliance among hospitals. (Getty/Capuski)

Only 9% of adults know that hospitals are required to post the prices of treatments and procedures on their websites, according to a recent survey.

Similarly, just 14% of respondents said they or a family member had gone online to research the price of a hospital’s treatment within the past six months.

The data—reported this week by Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker, a partnership between the Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation—suggest low consumer awareness and utilization of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS') price transparency rule, which went into effect for hospitals Jan. 1.

Low awareness was generally consistent across age groups, income levels and health status, according to the report, although knowledge of the requirement was as low as 4% among non-Hispanic Black adults.

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However, demographic differences were more pronounced among those who had or had not recently searched online for treatment prices.

Nearly a quarter of those between the ages of 18 and 29 years old reported seeking out a hospital’s prices, compared to 16% of those aged 30 to 49 years, 10% of those aged 50 to 64 years and 9% of those 65 years and older. Respondents with household incomes of $40,000 or more were also more likely to seek out price information than those with incomes under that threshold.

Knowledge of the requirement did not appear to have any impact on individuals’ price-seeking behavior, the group wrote, as those who did search for hospital prices were no more likely to be aware of the rule than those who did not search.

“In fact, adults who did search for hospital prices were somewhat more likely to incorrectly say that there is no federal requirement (33%) than those who did not search for hospital prices (20%),” the report’s authors wrote.

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The group noted that many of these individuals who sought out hospitals’ prices likely faced some difficulties.

Analyses from Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker as well as other industry groups and academics have found that a substantial number of hospitals are not compliant with one or more requirements of CMS’ controversial mandate. This has led the agency to begin sending out warnings to non-compliant hospitals as early as April.

“Price transparency may help some patients seek lower-priced care for non-emergency medical treatment and incur fewer costs, but the available pricing information has to be accessible and useful for that to happen, and patients would first need to be aware that they can find the price of care online,” Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker wrote in the report.  “With only one in ten adults aware of the federal requirement for hospitals to publicly post prices for services, the potential for price transparency efforts to reduce costs remains a question.”