Healthcare Cost Transparency Has Finally (maybe) Come of Age

March 11, 2015

It used to be that finding out the cost of basic healthcare procedure was nearly impossible. We’ve long called for transparency in costs and hoped that 2015 would be a year of transparency. It turns out that we may get our wish, or we may at least gain some significant momentum. From proposed state legislation to new websites that help consumers check on prices – there is a lot of activity that will benefit consumers.

There’s a new site called Guroo that provides comparative healthcare costs for common ailments and procedures. The Healthcare Cost Institute (HCCI) built the site using data from 40 million members of four healthcare insurance companies – Aetna, Assurant Health, Humana, and UnitedHealthcare – anonymously of course! Guroo provides both a national cost and a cost based on the user’s geographic location. HCCI expects to expand on Guroo by adding more procedures and costs to the database.

In addition to the data provided to HCCI, Aetna recently added its own price transparency information to its mobile app called iTriage. The app has been around for a few years but the pricing feature is new, and limited at this time. It isn’t available to all 13 million users but hopefully will be soon. It’s a step in the right direction.

In a big bold move, a New Mexico legislator has introduced legislation that will establish a statewide health information system to help consumers compare costs for procedures at various hospitals across the state. A recent report from a New Mexico think-tank, the impetus behind the legislation, actually recommends that hospitals be required to charge the same amount for the same procedure across the state. Right now, however, the goal is summed up in the legislation as: “At a minimum, the web site shall post data about the prices and quality of frequently provided health care services or procedures at New Mexico hospitals.” There is no fiscal note attached to the legislation yet.

Other notable efforts:

  • The Hospital Association in Indiana just launched a new price transparency website called “CareInSight”.
  • At the end of 2014, the state of Massachusetts started mandating that insurers post their costs for medical procedures.
  • New Hampshire currently requires insurers to post costs.

Just about a year ago now, the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute released its Metrics for Transformation – Transparency report. Forty-eight states received a D or an F in transparency including both Indiana and New Hampshire. Let’s hope that they do a follow-up report in 2015. Let’s hope the numbers show an improvement and a movement towards greater price transparency in health care.

Originally posted by Maura Donley of CieloStar on March 5, 2015.

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