In an effort to provide consumers with up-to-the-minute information on the cost of health care procedures, Clarian Health became the latest insurance provider in Indiana to provide dot-com cost comparisons for consumers, launching the online Clarian Price and Quality Guide in April.
The guide provides prices for approximately 75 of the most common procedures and also estimates patients’ out-of-pocket expenses and the portion of a procedure health insurance will likely cover.
“By empowering people to make decisions about their own health care and creating a transparent delivery system, we can provide consumers with an incentive to become more responsible health care purchasers,” explained Clarian CEO Daniel F. Evans, Jr.
“Consumers should demand and expect the same valuable information from the health care industry they receive from other businesses,” Evans continued. “Knowing relevant data about safety and quality of care is important in any health care purchase decision, and this is what Clarian is trying to make available to patients and the community. I strongly believe that an emphasis on quality, transparency, and consumer empowerment can reduce costs, improve patient care, and aid the entire health care industry.”
Clarian, which owns five facilities in Indianapolis, joins several other health care plans in providing new forms of pricing transparency. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, an affiliate of Wellpoint, was one of the first to introduce the new price transparency concept, launching its online tool in September 2006.
According to Anthem, information is being made available to help customers better understand the cost of more common procedures such as MRIs and knee replacements. As more consumers are dipping into their own Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), they are shopping for affordable health care services.
“Anthem believes the more information our members have, the better decisions they’ll make about their health and well being,” said Dr. David Lee, vice president of health care management for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Indiana.
“The rise in health care costs has encouraged more Americans to manage their health care dollars through consumer-driven products, such as HSAs, using the power of market forces to improve quality and control costs. Unfortunately, information on medical costs and quality is complex and often difficult to obtain and understand,” Lee continued
Comparison-shopping for health care has caught on like wildfire. Anthem, for example, has documented consumer attitudes since it launched the comparison tool last year:
- 95 percent of visitors to the site say the information is valuable;
- 80 percent say the information is clear, easy to understand, and easy to use;
- 75 percent never compared costs before; and
- 55 percent said they would discuss options with their doctor after using the cost-comparison site.
“Anthem Care Comparisons began as a pilot in Dayton, Ohio with the support of General Motors,” Lee explained. “GM is the largest private purchaser of health care services, spending approximately $5 million on employee health care in 2005. Anthem believes the more information our members have, the better decisions they will make about their health and well-being. In turn, healthier employees allow employers to more effectively control health care costs.”
Bill Corley, chief executive of Community Health Network in Indianapolis, said Anthem’s tool is a good start in helping patients better understand hospital pricing of health care services.
“It’s the Robin Hood principle,” Corley explained. “It may force hospitals to totally re-price their services if you take this to the extreme.”
“It really drives hospitals to improve their overall value to the health care marketplace,” Lee said.
Judi E. Loomis ([email protected]) writes from Indiana.