Health Care Cost Institute launches cost transparency website

 - healthcare costs

Health-care pricing got a little more transparent this week with the launch of Guroo.com, a website that allows health consumers to compare costs for more than 75 services, many of them involving medical imaging.

The site was launched by the non-profit organization Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI). The cost estimates contained on the site are calculated from HCCI’s health insurance claims data set, which includes anonymous claims data on more 40 million patients. This data comes from insurers such as Aetna, Assurant Health, Humana, and United Health Care, which are participating in the HCCI initiative.

“For many consumers, shopping for health care doesn’t feel like an option—it’s simply too complicated,” said David Newman, executive director of HCCI, in an announcement. “ Guroo intends to change this by showing consumers they can shop for health care and elect where they spend their health care dollars. With rising prices and more consumers enrolled in high-deductible health plans, consumers are eager to get the best value out of every dollar they spend on health care.”

The site currently allows consumers—free of charge—to look for pricing information on 78 conditions and services, including MRI scans, CT scans, colonoscopy, mammograms, and ultrasound. It allows for price reporting at the national, state and local level.

For example, a price comparison for a knee MRI without contrast shows that the average cost nationally for that procedure is $681, while in Boston it averages $1,059. However, if that consumer is shopping for that exam on the other side of the country, he or she will find that its costs, on average, $661 in San Francisco.

HCCI said it expects to get more insurers to start participating in this initiative in 2015 and it anticipates it will be able to incorporate government claims data, as well.

In addition, HCCI plans enhancements to the website in 2015, including more healthcare price information, quality information, prescription costs, and a Spanish-language version. Eventually HCCI hopes to provide more information—such as expected out-of-pocket expenses and provider quality measures—for consumers whose insurers are engaging in the initiative.