By DAMIEN FISHER, InDepthNH.org
ROCHESTER – Frisbie Memorial Hospital is ordered to pay more than $100,000 in fines after it failed for months to correct the pricing tools which let patients know how much their care will cost.
In fact, according to a letter from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, the hospital has been dodging the agency’s attempts to fix the problem since December.
The hospital’s representative, Ellen Miller, said the hospital was not initially aware of the attempt
s by CMS to contact the hospital. Then, due to a series of oversights, the hospital failed to acknowledge several voicemails from CMS.
“Once we recognized this issue, we promptly engaged CMS and are working to resolve any issues. Our hospital implemented the federal requirements in January 2021. Since then our hospital website has included a consumer-friendly Patient Payment Estimator tool that provides relevant information to help patients understand what their out-of-pocket responsibility may be for hospital care, including those that are uninsured. In addition, we have posted contracted rates with third party payers using one of the machine-readable file formats listed in the regulations to provide the five types of “standard charges,” Miller said.
The Hospital Price Transparency rule went into effect in 2021, and Frisbie is one of just four hospitals nationally to be fined for violations, according to CMS information.
The April 23 letter from CMS states the hospital’s violations were first caught in 2021, when a review found the pricing tool on Frisbie’s website failed to include all necessary data to give patients an accurate estimate of their healthcare costs.
In August of 2021, the hospital responded to the CMS warning with additional information about the pricing tool. But, according to CMS, that did not fix the problems with the pricing tool.
In October, another CMS review found several data deficiencies that still leave patients in the dark about their healthcare costs, according to the April 23 letter. At this point, the hospital was given until December to submit a corrective action plan, or CAP, to the agency to avoid being found in violation of the law. That is when the hospital simply stopped responding, according to the letter.
“Frisbie Memorial Hospital did not submit a CAP by the submission deadline and has not contacted CMS in response to the Notice of Violation and Request for CAP, either through the CEO or any other designated representative,” the letter states.
Representatives with CMS made multiple attempts to contact Frisbie CEO Tim Jones and other administrators throughout February and March of this year, to no avail.
The hospital is now being fined $10 per hospital bed per day of the violation. The start date of the violation is Oct. 24, 2022. The CMS letter states given the hospital’s 58 beds and the 177 days of violations, the total fine amount is $102,660 as of the April 23 letter. Each day of continuing to be in violation after that date costs the hospital another $580.
Frisbie has been losing money for years, and recently had to agree to pay $2.75 million to the Greater Rochester Community Health Foundation as part of its planned closure of the labor and delivery department. Pregnant women will be directed to Portsmouth Regional Hospital for healthcare services.
The hospital was bought by Nashville-based HCA Healthcare in 2020. As part of the New Hampshire Attorney General’s approval for the purchase, HCA agreed to keep the labor and delivery department operating for at least another five years. When it announced plans to close labor and delivery last year, the Attorney General’s Office intervened and required the $2.75 million payment.
HCA reported earning more than $60 billion in revenue last year, up from $58 billion in 2021.