Kudos to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Colorado. They’ve launched a new online system called Anthem Care Comparison that is being touted as an industry-leading transparency tool. Anthem’s insureds in the metropolitan areas of Colorado can now see total estimated costs of 39 different medical procedures, including expenses for office visits and lab work. The information is specific to particular hospitals and outpatient surgery clinics, so members can really gain an understanding of how the costs compare from one provider to the next. This will be particularly helpful to members with Anthem’s Lumenos HSA-qualified policies, since the members have to pay for procedures themselves until the deductible is met.
Health care has long been an area where comparison shopping was a difficult task. When people have low deductibles and employer-sponsored health insurance, there isn’t a lot of incentive to shop around and compare prices on medical procedures. And even when a patient is paying out of pocket, it can be very difficult to get pricing estimates before a procedure is done.
As health care prices climb, and more people choose higher deductible policies in order to keep health insurance premiums affordable, comparison shopping will likely become more common in health care. But there has to be a resource for people – somewhere other than the EOB (which arrives after the procedure is done) – where patients can see how much they’re going to have to budget for health care. I’m thrilled to see that Anthem is making this a priority, and has introduced such a useful tool for their Colorado members. I hope that as time goes on, Anthem will expand their transparency tool to include more procedures, and that other health insurance carriers will get on board with similar programs. It’s time to lift the veil of secrecy that surrounds network negotiated pricing. Health care is too important – and way too expensive – for consumers to have to guess when it comes to pricing and picking a provider.