The More You Know – State Touts Consumer Healthcare Transparency Campaign

A  healthcare transparency campaign introduced late last year aims to educate consumers about new health-insurance cost-estimator tools that allow them to shop around and compare prices of medical procedures.
The “Get the Deal on Care” website (getthedealoncare.org) raises awareness of new health insurance cost-estimators, which allow Massachusetts consumers to compare the price of medical procedures before obtaining those services. The online tools are required as part of a transparency provision in the state’s 2012 landmark healthcare cost-containment law.
The website was developed in partnership with 13 health-insurance companies and many Massachusetts employers, providers, and consumer groups. The site includes information about the law’s requirements and provides a link to each participating insurer’s online cost estimator. The Office of Consumer Affairs also produced transit and online advertising to draw awareness to the law and tools.
The law requires that health insurers provide an online cost estimator that shows real-time information tailored to a member’s specific plan, taking into account information such as co-pay, deductible, and co-insurance. This way, a member searching for a common procedure, such as an MRI or the cost of a visit to a dermatologist, will be able to compare prices charged by different providers and make the best decision before the service is obtained.
“High health-insurance premiums have been the number-one concern for small businesses for many years running,” said Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Assoc. of Massachusetts. “We have long argued that increased transparency in costs and pricing was needed so that consumers could actually know what they are buying, and how much it was going to cost.  Also, having prices publicly available forces competition — but only if the consumer gets engaged. We need to promote these new cost-estimator tools, and we need to use them, because we are all healthcare consumers.”
Added Barbra Rabson, president and CEO of Massachusetts Health Quality Partners, “healthcare transparency needs to include both cost and quality information because, in the absence of quality data, people may assume that more expensive care is better care, and we know that is often not the case.”
She noted that another consumer-friendly website, healthcarecompassma.org, shares reliable information about Massachusetts primary-care doctors. “We encourage people to use this information to make better informed choices about their healthcare.”
Rick Lord, president of Associated Industries of Massachusetts, noted that, “in Massachusetts, we are fortunate that most employers provide health insurance to their employees, but the high cost is a significant burden for many of them. Now, however, employers can play an important role in addressing the cost challenge by encouraging their employees to become engaged and informed consumers by using the new online tools to find lower-cost, high-quality healthcare providers.”

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