A Radiology-focused Analysis of Transparency and Usability of Top U.S. Hospitals' Chargemasters

Published:January 31, 2020DOI:

      Rationale and Objectives

      In 2019, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services enforced regulation from the Affordable Care Act, requiring all U.S. hospitals to publish standard hospital charges annually. This study assesses top U.S academic hospitals’ chargemasters for selected advanced diagnostic imaging services and the usability of publicly available information to allow consumers to determine out-of-pocket costs.

      Materials and Methods

      Publicly available chargemasters and associated websites for the top 20 ranked hospitals in U.S. News and World Report were assessed for several features including: file format, inclusion of CPT codes, disclaimers on charges versus costs and professional fees, and tools allowing determination of actual out-of-pocket costs for selected advanced diagnostic imaging examinations.


      All hospitals had publicly available chargemasters, 90% of which were in Microsoft Excel format. Ten percent of chargemasters included CPT codes. All chargemaster websites had disclaimers regarding differences between charges versus patient costs; 20% had disclaimers regarding professional fees. 20% of hospitals provided out-of-pocket costs for uninsured patients or tools allowing out-of-pocket cost determination. Median (range) MR exam charges were: brain with and without contrast: $5375 ($834–$13,857), noncontrast knee: $3402 (4530–$6924); noncontrast lumbar spine: $ 3449 ($473–$7367). Median (range) CT exam charges were: noncontrast head: $1923 ($165–$4974), noncontrast chest: $1947 ($282–$2991); contrast abdomen/pelvis: $4307 ($486–$11,726).


      While all top-ranked hospitals had publicly available chargemasters, they rarely provided transparent information to allow patients to determine out-of-pocket costs for advanced diagnostic imaging services.

      Key Words

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