Understanding the Charge Description Master (CDM) File
The CDM file is a hospital's regularly updated database containing the list of standard charges (i.e. “list prices”) assigned to procedures, services, drugs, and supplies associated with the delivery of medical care at that hospital or facility. Standard charges are standard dollar amount that a UPMC hospital sets for services rendered before negotiating any discounts. It is important to note that the standard charge is not the amount that a patient is expected to pay for receiving healthcare services. A patient’s financial obligation is determined by many factors, including insurance coverage and benefit plan limits.
If you need help for paying your healthcare costs, please see the Billing & Insurance page for more information on financial assistance, understanding your bill, and payment options.
Please see the Frequently Asked Questions section below for more information on the Charge Description Master (CDM) file.
Charge Description Master (CDM) File
The CDM file is downloadable is comma-separated value (CSV) file. Per regulations issued from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, this file will be updated at least annually.
Each row of the CDM file contains information regarding a certain medical service, surgical procedure, supply item, or drug. The first column of each row contains the name of the hospital, the second column of each row contains the description of the medical service, surgical procedure, supply item, or drug, and the third column of each row contains the standard base charge for that item.
CDM Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: What is the Charge Description Master (CDM)?
A: The Charge Description Master (CDM) file is a hospital's regularly updated database containing the list of Standard Charges assigned to procedures, services, drugs, and supplies associated with the delivery of medical care at that hospital or facility.
Q: What is a “Standard Charge”?
A: The standard dollar amount a UPMC provider sets for services rendered before negotiating any discounts. The charge can be – and often is – different from the amount paid.
Q: How are “standard charge” amounts established?
A: Standard charges reflect the hospital costs for directly providing your care, as well as a portion of the cost for support areas not directly involved in your care. In addition to costs for the nurses, technicians, and other staff involved in coordinating and providing your care, the hospital charge includes overhead costs for services such as billing, facilities maintenance, information technology and medical records.
Additionally, hospital charges allow for future investments cutting-edge diagnostic and therapeutic services, improvements to hospital facilities, and the expansion of clinical programs & services that are needed to provide world-class medical care.
Q: Are standard charges different based on my insurance?
A: No, the standard charge amount assigned in the CDM is the same regardless of type of insurance or payer coverage. All patients at a hospital receive the same charge amount for the same service.
Q: I have insurance - do standard charges reflect what I will be responsible for paying?
A: No, if you have in-network insurance coverage your out-of-pocket payment responsibility is based on the benefits of your insurance plan. Your insurance determines the copay, coinsurance, and deductible amounts that you will be responsible for paying out-of-pocket. Copay, coinsurance, and deductible amounts are determined by your insurance company and are not affected by standard charges.
Similarly, your coinsurance and deductible amounts are determined by the contracted payment rates your insurance company has made with the hospital (called the “allowable”), not on the standard charge in the CDM.
Because your insurance plan benefits determine your out-of-pocket costs and payment for your services is based upon contracted rates, the hospital CDM file of standard charges is not a useful tool for determining the out-of-pocket cost that you will pay for your healthcare.
Q: I have insurance, but my insurance does not have a contract with UPMC. How can I determine my out-of-pocket costs?
A: If you have insurance that is not contracted with UPMC, please contact your insurance company for more information on out-of-network benefits.
Q: I do not have insurance - do standard charges reflect what I will be responsible for paying?
A: No - standard charges do not reflect your out-of-pocket cost for nearly all hospital clinical services and visit types. For patients who have no insurance, there are multiple options for providing help for paying your healthcare costs. Please see the Billing & Insurance page for more information on financial assistance, understanding your bill, and payment options.
Machine Readable File of Items & Services
Pursuant to the 2020 Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) rule issued by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), UPMC Cole is providing online access to a Machine-Readable file of Items & Services in JSON format. “Machine-readable” means that the data file can be easily processed by a computer. The JSON format is one of the file formats approved by CMS, and is a frequently used, standardized file format for data exchange. Consistent with these regulations issued by CMS, this file will be updated at least annually.
For each hospital item or service provided to patients, the Machine Readable File of Items & Services specifies the hospital standard (gross) charge, discounted cash price (for an individual who pays cash), and the minimum and maximum charge that a hospital has negotiated with a third-party payer. Additionally, this file contains payer-specific negotiated charge amounts as required by CMS.
It is important to note that contracts negotiated between hospitals and payers use many different, and frequently unique, reimbursement methodologies. Hospital reimbursements for clinical services, i.e., charges, may be conditionally paid based on other services provided, or bundled into the payment for other services. Reimbursements also may vary due to other negotiated, complex criteria specific to particular payer contracts. Consequently, using the Machine Readable File of Items & Services to conduct comparisons of contracted payment rates for specific line items across payers may not accurately reflect total contracted reimbursement rates.