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Northside Hospital first in US fined under price transparency rule, owes $1 million

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | June 15, 2022
Business Affairs
CMS has issued a $1 million fine to Northside Hospital in Atlanta for violating the hospital price transparency rule. (Photo courtesy of Northside)
Northside Hospital in Georgia will be the first U.S. health system to pay a fine for violating the hospital price transparency rule, owing more than $1 million.

In effect since January 2021, the law is meant to help consumers shop and choose the most affordable plan based on their needs. Under it, hospitals must list certain service prices on their websites, including a consumer-friendly searchable list of 300 medical procedures. The list must be a single machine-readable file that can be imported and processed by computers, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Northside Hospital Atlanta was fined $883,180 for not clearly identifying its location in the searchable list. Northside Hospital Cherokee will pay $214,320 for having “no consumer-friendly list of standard charges,” said a CMS spokesperson. The agency also said that required services were not posted in a single machine-readable file.

Until now, CMS has refrained from issuing any penalties to give hospitals time to make corrections and comply with the law. Last year, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution assessed compliance among Georgia hospitals, with Northside scoring the lowest for not posting a machine-readable list. AJC reporters were also unable to use its consumer-friendly searchable list.

Northside told the AJC that the information required under the law lacks context because prices are subject to change, and would not be useful to patients.

An analysis published on June 7 in JAMA evaluated 5,239 hospital websites for the first six to nine months after the law went into effect. It found that roughly 51% did not abide by either requirement, and that only 30% had a shoppable display but not a machine-readable file. Almost 14% had a machine-readable file but not a shoppable display. Less than 6% had both.

Only Northside has been fined to date, according to CMS. The agency, which can fine large hospitals up to $2 million each year, did not disclose whether more would be penalized for not complying with the law.

Northside did not respond for comment.

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