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Most N.H. hospitals noncompliant with federal price transparency rules

  • Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin is one of two New Hampshire hospitals with an easy-to-use pricing tool. Screenshot

Monitor staff
Published: 7/23/2021 4:22:30 PM

Many New Hampshire hospitals do not comply with the federal government’s rules on pricing transparency, according to a recent report released by a patient rights advocacy group.

The report, released earlier this month, found that almost every New Hampshire hospital, including Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, state-run New Hampshire Hospital and facilities in Concord, Nashua and Manchester, had not fully met a Trump-era medical transparency rule that was recently backed by the Biden Administration.

Starting on Jan. 1, 2020, all hospitals in the United Staters were supposed to post a public list of common medical procedures, along with their corresponding prices and the cost negotiated with insurers.

“Under this final rule, about 200 million Americans will gain access to real-time price information, enabling them to know how much their healthcare will cost them before going in for treatment,” former president Donald Trump’s executive order read.

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden released an executive order that asked the U.S. Department of Health to enforce the transparency rule.

Even so, a report conducted by a group called Patient Rights Advocate found that only a little more than 5% of the 500 hospitals they surveyed across the United States were compliant with the new guidelines.

“These findings align with previous research indicating that hospitals are undermining the rule with incomplete information, (and) burdensome access restrictions, code to block prices from being displayed,” the authors of the survey wrote.

Advocates have said that the penalties are not severe enough to motivate real change — hospitals that do not comply with the transparency rules face a fine of up to $300, a drop in the bucket for many large health corporations.

The 28 New Hampshire hospitals in violation of this rule had varying levels of compliance — some lacked charges for a couple of major insurance companies, others lacked a pricing tool altogether.

The movement to make medical costs more transparent has gained bipartisan support in recent years — according to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 96% of Democrats, 92% of Independents and 91% of Republicans believe information about the price of doctors visits, tests and procedures should be more available to patients.

The costs of medical procedures are notoriously difficult to pin down. Patients often don’t know how much they will pay for their care until they receive a hospital bill.

Advocates argue transparency laws will drive down prices by allowing patients to shop around for fairly priced healthcare. Some researchers have found that these transparency initiatives are successful — one study found that New Hampshire’s statewide transparency database prompted a 3% decrease in the cost of medical imaging procedures, like MRIs and x-rays, for patients over 5 years.

Advocates also hope transparent prices will draw attention to areas with inflated prices of medical procedures. Prices for planned, standard procedures can fluctuate widely even in similar geographic areas. 

Two New Hampshire hospitals, Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin and Exeter Hospital were found to be in compliance with the Trump-era rule, with easy-to-use price calculators that are displayed prominently on their websites.


Teddy Rosenbluth bio photo

Teddy Rosenbluth is a Report for America corps member covering health care issues for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. She has covered science and health care for Los Angeles Magazine, the Santa Monica Daily Press and UCLA's Daily Bruin, where she was a health editor and later magazine director. Her investigative reporting has brought her everywhere from the streets of Los Angeles to the hospitals of New Delhi. Her work garnered first place for Best Enterprise News Story from the California Journalism Awards, and she was a national finalist for the Society of Professional Journalists Best Magazine Article. She graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology.



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