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AHA, others urge HHS to delay price transparency rule due to COVID-19

The groups said the rule would pose a burden to hospitals and health systems responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

Four provider organizations are urging the Department of Health and Human Services to delay implementation of the price transparency rule until after the courts make a decision in the case.

The American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals, the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Children's Hospital Association made their request in a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar on June 29, five days after these associations and others filed an appeal against a ruling which would implement a rule on price transparency in seven months.

The groups said the rule would pose a burden to hospitals and health systems responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

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"While we disagree with the agency on the value of public disclosure of negotiated rate information (as opposed to estimated out-of-pocket costs), we hope that you will agree that advancing this policy is not essential at this moment," the letter said. "Even attempting to comply with the rule will require a significant diversion of financial resources and staff time that hospitals and health systems cannot afford to spare as they prepare to or care for patients with COVID-19. Asking information technology and clinical care departments to refocus their efforts at this juncture is, at best, unwise, as the past week has demonstrated that significant new outbreaks of the virus can occur in locations that were previously unaffected or had very few cases."

The Administrative Procedure Act specifically contemplates an agency's postponing the effective date of action taken by CMS pending judicial review, the groups said. 

WHY THIS MATTERS 

On June 23, a federal judge ruled against the lawsuit brought by the American Hospital Association and other providers, which claimed a final rule requiring them to post their negotiated prices with payers violated their First Amendment rights, was arbitrary and capricious, and exceeded the statutory authority of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The groups appealed the decision on June 24 on an expedited basis, as the final rule on price transparency is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2021.

THE LARGER TREND

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has adopted a temporary policy of relaxed enforcement in connection to implementation of the interoperability and patient access final rule due to COVID-19.

CMS has waived statutory deadlines that apply to its rulemaking. 

CMS has given no indication that it would use such discretion in this case.

ON THE RECORD

"On behalf of America's hospitals and health systems, we urge you to delay the effective date of the hospital price transparency rule – given the burden it would pose to hospitals and health systems in the midst of responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency – until the matter is settled by the courts," the letter said. 
 

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com