California's new website compares medical costs, insurance payments

Dive Brief:

  • California recently launched a new $3.9 million federally-funded platform, California Healthcare Compare, enabling consumers to compare the price of common medical procedures as well as estimate how much insurance will pay and out-of-pocket expenses will cost.  
  • Price information was provided by Truven Health Analytics, which gathered data from 10 million claims between 2010 and 2013. 
  • The platform, established by the California Department of Insurance, was prompted by the proliferation of high-deductible plans increasing the need for transparency regarding price and quality, Dave Jones, the state insurance commissioner, told Modern Healthcare. "Californians, until this moment, have really struggled to get price information. Having price information really matters as consumers have to dig into their own pockets." 

Dive Insight:

Colorado and Maine have tried similar plans to make price information more transparent. However, there remain concerns about the level of data available and whether consumers can use it effectively. California's platform does not provide information on what a specific provider is paid for a service, such as platforms in Massachusetts or New Hampshire. However, some experts question whether consumers will use a third-party website to compare prices. 

A survey by Public Agenda and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said only 17% of 2,000 respondents accessed such a website not associated with their insurer. Instead, David Schleifer, senior research associate at Public Agenda told Modern Healthcare, "They're asking people they know, which is normal. It may mean that they don't know how to find reliable or trustworthy information."

The survey also showed 56% looked up price information, but most only checked prices for one provider. Surprisingly, only 43% were aware that doctors charge different prices. Schleifer added, "There's a significant share of Americans who don't know that prices vary." 

If funding continues, the platform will evolve over time, Dr. R. Adams Dudley, director of the UCSF Center for Healthcare Values, told Kaiser Health News. Some additions might include quality and cost data for more conditions and cost data for individual hospitals and physicians' groups. 

Filed Under: Health IT Payer
Top image credit: Flickr; John Loo