Blue Cross online tool allows comparison shopping for medical procedures
Posted January 7, 2015
Durham, N.C. — 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.