All consumers should check out California Healthcare Compare

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones issued the following statement this week: 

California Healthcare Compare is a new tool that provides the public with access to important information about the price and quality of medical care in California. Californians have had very little access to price information before seeking medical care. In the last few years, we’ve made great strides in increasing the number of Californians who have health insurance. Often health insurance coverage has high deductibles, so patients have to pay a lot for care out of pocket before health insurance kicks in. Price information is critical for patients paying out of pocket. Two years ago, I directed the Department of Insurance to seek federal grant funding under the Affordable Care Act to create a consumer tool to help Californians shop for and compare prices and quality of health services before they get care. Our grant application to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was approved and the Department was awarded $3.9 million to improve healthcare transparency in California. We then looked for an academic institution and consumer organization to partner with to develop this new website. UCSF and Consumer Reports are the partners we chose to help create CA Healthcare Compare.

CA Healthcare Comparethe first transparency tool of its kind in CA, provides average prices, by region, for around 100 common medical procedures and conditions. Whether you need maternity care or a hip replacement, CA Healthcare Compare is for you. The site also provides consumers the ability to easily compare hospitals and medical groups on the quality of care they deliver. Prices vary significantly by geographic region and within a region, so the price and quality information helps consumers make better choices about where to receive care. As Insurance Commissioner, I hear from Californians who seek medical care without having the information they need about what this care will cost their families. The time for greater transparency for healthcare costs is long overdue. Consumers have been in the dark about the price of medical services from one medical provider and facility to the next. Purchasing healthcare has been like shopping in a department store with a bag over your head – the consumer has no idea until they receive the bill how much they will be paying. And never before have we had cost information paired with quality measures to help consumers determine where they will get the best value.

CA Healthcare Compare makes it possible for Californians to search online for common medical procedures, to get average prices and a range of prices in their area, and to compare medical providers based on quality measures — before making the important decision about where to seek medical care. We worked with Consumer Reports and UCSF to create and test the website so that it would have the information people need in a user-friendly format. This project included a lengthy stakeholder process and consumer testing. The partnership between the Department of Insurance and UCSF and Consumer Reports produced information that consumers need in an easy-to-navigate site. CA HealthCare Compare is a major step in enhancing the transparency of medical prices and quality, and empowering consumers to make more informed decisions about their medical care. The long term vision is to provide consumers with real time price information for each medical provider, as opposed to averages and a range of pricing, and to do this we need health insurers to share with us the prices they and consumers pay for each medical provider — which so far they have not been willing to do. I believe consumers will respond favorably to those who do share their information. And I believe consumers will ultimately demand that legislators act to require this price information be made available if healthcare stakeholders continue to refuse to do so.

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