Health Care Cost Institute, Health Insurers to Collaborate on Price Transparency Portal

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The Health Care Cost Institute has announced it will work with Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealthcare to develop an online healthcare price transparency tool.

checkThe insurers will provide cost data to the nonprofit HCCI, which will create the online tool and maintain and manage access to the information, according to a news release. HCCI aims to give consumers, payers, providers and others access to aggregate pricing data from commercial health plans and Medicare Advantage plans. Other private health insurers are expected to join the project and provide data for the tool's release, which is scheduled for the first quarter of 2015. After its initial launch, HCCI also intends to refine the tool to include more comparison features and data from fee-for-service Medicare and Medicaid programs, if and when that data is available, according to the release.

"Consumers, employers and regulatory agencies will now have a single source of consistent, transparent healthcare information based on the most reliable data available, including actual costs, which only insurers currently have," David Newman, executive director of HCCI, said in the release. "Voluntarily making this information available will be of immeasurable value to consumers and other health system participants as they seek to manage the cost and quality of care."

Mr. Newman says the tool will contain information for all benefit levels and all commercial plans offered by the participating insurers. Although he notes the HCCI is very early on in the design phase, the organization envisions the portal as having three components. The first will be open to the public and will have pricing information that's geographically specific and weighted across all participating insurers. "These will be the actual amounts paid by the data contributors in a particular locality for some service or bundle of services," he says.

If the HCCI manages to gather data that's "thick" enough, he says the pricing breakdown could be very granular, possibly reported by five-digit zip codes.

The second component or tier of the tool will be password protected and accessible only by people enrolled in health plans administered by the participating insurers. They will be able to take a customized look at healthcare prices, with the tool factoring in information such as their actual expenses to date, according to Mr. Newman. The third tier, which will also be password protected, will be exclusive and customizable to large employers.

Although the portal is intended to help consumers, providers and others manage costs, Mr. Newman stresses it's important not to overlook other factors, such as quality, that are important to consumers in making decisions about their care. "While this is important, it's not the silver bullet for constraining costs," he says.

More Articles on Price Transparency:
4 Healthcare Organizations With Price Transparency Tools  
5 Guiding Principles for Healthcare Price Transparency  
4 Key Recommendations for Improving Healthcare Price Transparency 

 

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