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Blue Cross online tool allows comparison shopping for medical procedures

Posted January 7, 2015

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— Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina has expanded an online tool that allows people to compare the costs charged by health care providers for hundreds of medical procedures.

The insurer launched the Treatment Cost Estimator in 2012, but it was available only to people in Blue Cross plans and included cost comparisons for only about 400 procedures. The latest incarnation of the tool is open to everyone statewide and has tripled the number of procedures in its database.

"We’re working to take the mystery out of health care by providing cost information about more than 1,200 procedures,” Blue Cross President and Chief Executive Brad Wilson said in a statement. “This information will help consumers get more bang for their health care buck.”

The amount someone might pay for a knee replacement in the Triangle, for example, can vary by nearly $15,000, depending on which surgeon performs the operation and which hospital is used, officials said.

The cost estimates are based on the company's Blue Advantage and Blue Value plans. Blue Cross customers can find more specific estimates based on their plan, as well as quality information on Blue Connect, the company’s customer portal.

“Many consumers believe that the highest-cost facility is the highest-quality facility, but that’s often not the case,” Dr. Susan Weaver, Blue Cross' chief medical officer, said in a statement. “We know that our customers want the highest-quality health care, but like any purchase they make, they don’t want to pay more than they have to. Our tool allows them to make informed decisions about health care just as they would any other major purchase.”

The lack of transparency in health care prices drives up the cost of care by more than $100 billion each year in the U.S., according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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  • delilahk2000 Jan 8, 2015

    I am not to pleased with bcbs.....Why can't I choose what pharmacy to go to instead of BCBS............I can't stand CVS........But they chose to take my choice from Walgreens from me......to them.......

  • peace2u Jan 7, 2015

    This is a great idea...why shouldn't we be able to shop around...the same procedure, even an MRI, varies greatly in price from one place to another.

  • In Decisive Jan 7, 2015

    Translation - use the doctors we want you to use because they cost us less. Maybe they're not the best doctors, but they are cheaper for Blue Cross.