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By A. Pawlowski and Lauren Dunn

Hospitals already have to make prices for procedures available on request, but a new rule requiring them to post the information online goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

The move toward price transparency sounds like a step in the right direction — part of government efforts to encourage patients to become better educated decision makers in their own care and shop around for the best value for, say, a colonoscopy.

But some health care advocates warn the new requirement is not as straightforward as it appears and may be confusing to consumers.

“This is the list price. When you go to buy a car, you have a manufacturer’s suggested retail price — this is basically what it is,” said NBC News medical contributor Dr. Natalie Azar on TODAY Friday.

“The concern is that there’s a big difference between what the list price is and what the actual transaction price is — the cost the patient is responsible for.”

Almost no one pays the charges indicated on the price list, said Dr. Ira Nash, senior vice president and executive director of Northwell Health Physician Partners in New York. The real prices are the result of negotiations with insurance companies and those are not published, he added.