Hospitals will be required to post service costs online but health care workers warn the numbers may not always be accurate

Starting Jan. 1, hospitals will be required to post the charges of their standard services online because of a new federal rule.

It allows patients to shop around before seeking treatment.

But the charges posted are likely not what you will actually pay.

UNC Health Care sent a statement to ABC11 saying it supports efforts to improve transparency but "... Because of wide variation in health insurance coverage, it is difficult for our hospitals to provide specific cost information without access to very detailed information about a patient's coverage."

Cody Hand, Senior Vice President of the North Carolina Healthcare Association, said few people actually pay the prices listed on the Chargemaster, created for insurance companies as well as Medicaid and Medicare.

"It's always good for our patients to have more transparency as to their cost of healthcare so any time we can provide that, we want to," Hand said. "The con of this current transparency effort by CMS is it is showing the charges from the Chargemaster and very few hospitals, if any, collect the full charge that's listed on the Chargemaster. We're afraid that it will discourage patients from getting care before they've had a chance to talk with their hospital and doctor about what their needs are."

He recommends not getting discouraged by the price listed online if you need to get a procedure at a hospital and your insurance doesn't cover it.

"Before you make a decision, call the hospital and make sure that you can have an appointment to negotiate how much you pay, if anything," Hand said. "Most, if not all, hospitals have a charity care policy that will take your income into account when determining how much you pay so definitely call your hospital to work with them. They will happily work with you on the charge."

You'll find the charges on your hospital's website:
UNC Hospitals
Wakemed

Resource to comparing charges online:
NC DHHS
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