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How would you feel if you were expected to buy a car, a television or even a meal, without knowing first how much it will cost you? Confused? Helpless? Frustrated?

Unfortunately, that’s exactly how many of us feel when we’re faced with planning a medical test or procedure. We have no idea how much an MRI or a series of blood tests will cost – much less a medical procedure or surgery. This makes a stressful situation even harder to navigate. And if the stress wasn’t enough, lack of health care pricing transparency costs our country more than $100 billion every year. As they say in Washington: that’s real money.

Why is this happening? Because health care is the last frontier of pricing secrecy.

We’ve decided it’s time to change that.

Better Data, Better Decisions

At BCBSNC, we pay thousands of health care claims every day. And with all those claims comes reams of data. Useful data. Data that might change the way people shop for health care if they had access to it. Soon, they will.

Now we’re making our data public. Everyone in North Carolina, whether they are our customers or not, will be able to quickly search for common procedures like MRIs, knee replacements or hernia repairs and see how that cost compares between nearby hospitals.

For example, if you live in the Triangle and need a knee replacement, the price you pay could vary by as much as $15,000. Talk about real money!

All told, the tool will include more than 1,200 non-emergency and elective procedures. This robust database means consumers have the opportunity to make more informed decisions about how they spend money on health care. And it helps tackle the problem of rising health care costs by preventing consumers for paying more when they don’t have to.

How does the new tool work?

  • The new tool will allow users to search user-friendly terms, like “back” or “neck”, to find related elective procedures and their costs.
  • It also provides side-by-side cost comparisons based on our broad-network plan, Blue Advantage, and the narrow-network plan, Blue Value.
  • The tool is mobile friendly, so you can use it anywhere.
  • You can access the tool at http://www.bcbsnc.com/healthcarecost.

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  Click to take a look at the new tool. 

HealthNav

This isn’t the first time that we’ve shared cost data. Our existing customer cost transparency tool called HealthNav, introduced in 2012 and recently updated, lets our customers compare the cost and quality of medical procedures. This tool also estimates of our customers’ out-of-pocket costs based on their health insurance plan and deductible balance. That means fewer surprises when the bills start to hit the mailbox.

To see what we’ve been working on already, check out the video below and try out HealthNav, which is already available to our customers, by logging in to Blue Connect.

 

Bottom line: Facing a surgery or an imaging procedure can be stressful enough already. When you’re armed with cost information up front, you can take charge and take at least some of the uncertainty out of the equation. We think that’s a step in the right direction.

[Top image: Shutterstock]

About Natania Barron

Natania Barron is a social media specialist at BCBSNC, a newbie runner, a healthy food nut, and a mother of two. She's passionate about connecting with consumers through social media and helping to deliver a personal, meaningful experience online.