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Sample: More than 40% of hospitals fail to comply with price transparency law

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(The Center Square) – A new report on hospital price transparency found more than 40% in North Carolina are not complying with federal law to post prices online.

The compliance, however, is higher than in other states. The report puts North Carolina seventh out of 50 states and the District of Columbia for compliance.

The nonprofit Patient Rights Advocate’s fifth recently released Hospital Price Transparency Report examines compliance with the federal Hospital Price Transparency Rule among 2,000 hospitals nationwide, including a random sample of 44 in the Old North State.

The findings show 57%, or 25 of the hospitals reviewed in North Carolina, are complying with federal regulations implemented under the Affordable Care Act and made law by the Trump administration in 2021 requiring hospitals to post all prices online.

More than two years after Jan. 1, 2021, deadline to post prices, 43% of those examined in North Carolina have yet to fully comply.

Hospitals listed in the report as noncompliant include: Atrium Health Union, Atrium Health Union West, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Wilkes Medical Center, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital, Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, Duke University Hospital, ECU Health Medical Center, Harris Regional Hospital, Highlands-Cashiers Hospital, Maria Parham Medical Center, Mission Hospital, Mission Hospital McDowell, Rutherford Hospital, Swain Community Hospital, The Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital, Transylvania Regional Hospital and the WakeMed Raleigh Campus.

“When hospitals hide behind estimates or don’t post all real prices, they are leaving consumers in the dark,” said Cynthia Fisher, founder of Patients Rights Advocate. “Making all actual prices available upfront will empower patients, employers, and unions to choose the best care at prices they know they can afford, and protect all Americans from overcharges, errors, and fraud.”

The report comes as lawmakers in Raleigh consider legislation aimed at improving hospital price transparency and billing practices that have led North Carolinians to face some of the highest rates of medical debt in collections in the nation.

Both state Senate and House versions of the Medical Debt De-Weaponization Act, which would mandate hospitals do more to help patients avoid debt and to post prices online, are pending in House committees.

The recent report follows others that have shown a majority of nonprofit hospitals in North Carolina have failed to equal their tax exemptions with financial assistance for low-income patients. Hospital officials have disputed the charity care shortfalls and taken issue with the title of the Medical Debt De-Weaponization Act, but have not appeared in committee hearings to oppose the legislation.

The price transparency report illustrates that while many North Carolina hospitals are not complying with the federal price transparency law, the state’s compliance rate stands well above the national rate.

Out of the 2,000 hospitals reviewed nationwide, only 721 or 36% are fully complying with the federal law. The national rate marks a significant improvement over the 24.5% documented in Patients Rights Advocate’s prior report in February.

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