'Trying to find out the price of a medical service is a headache for consumers. When researchers called hospitals around the country to find out the cost of a hip replacement, only 10 percent were able to provide an answer. About 332,000 total hip replacements were performed in the U.S. in 2010. Shouldn't it be simple to find out the price of something that's bought and sold 900 times a day?
Three of the U.S.'s largest health insurers plan to make what they pay for medical care more transparent to consumers. Aetna (AET), Humana (HUM), and UnitedHealthcare (UNH) are joining with a nonprofit called the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) to turn their databases of medical claims into a useful online tool for consumers.
When the yet-to-be-named website goes live next year, anyone will be able to type in a medical service and search for prices, says David Newman, executive director of the HCCI. The site will show the average price paid by insurers in a given Zip Code (or wider areas if not enough data are available). It will also show a range of high- and low-end prices to indicate how much variation there is for a given service. He likens the information to car-buying site Edmunds.com.'