Large Hospitals Blocking Prices on Websites Despite Price Transparency Rule

March 22, 2021
Samara Rosenfeld

Many large hospitals and health systems put an embed code on their website to block prices.

Although hospitals have been releasing their previously confidential prices due to the new price transparency rule, they have blocked that information from web searches with coding embedded on their website, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In an examination of more than 3,100 websites conducted by investigators at the Journal, it was revealed that hundreds of hospitals embedded code in their websites that prevented Google and other search engines from displaying pages with the price lists. The embedded code keeps pages from appearing in searches related to a hospital’s name and prices. Still, the prices are often accessible other ways, but are much more difficult and lengthier.

“It’s technically there, but good luck finding it,” Chirag Shah, an associate professor at the University of Washington, told the Journal. “It’s one thing not to optimize your site for searchability, it’s another thing to tag it so it can’t be searched. It’s a clear indication of intentionality.”

It was revealed that some of the biggest U.S. healthcare systems and some of the largest hospitals in cities were using the blocking code, including hospitals owned by HCA Healthcare, Universal Health Services, the University of Pennsylvania Health System, and NYU Langone Health.

Officials at Penn Medicine, NYU Langone, and Novant Health said they used blocking code to direct patients first to information they considered more useful than raw pricing data, which also had links on their websites.

Spokeswoman Jane Crawford from Universal Health claimed they were making no efforts to hide any information.

The code was removed from several sites, including HCA, Penn Medicine, and Beaumont.