UnitedHealthcare believes making health care quality and cost information more accessible to all Americans will improve the health care system.
Providing health care prices to consumers, health care professionals and other stakeholders could reduce U.S. health care spending by more than $100 billion during the next decade, according to a 2014 report by the Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center.
This is in part because there are significant price variations for health care services and procedures at hospitals and doctors’ offices nationwide, yet a study by Families U.S.A. concluded that higher-priced care providers do not necessarily deliver higher-quality care or better health outcomes. In Houston, a knee MRI can cost from $717 to $4,116. Back surgery (lumbar fusion) in Dallas can range from $34,100 to $133,676.
Fortunately, there are many new online and mobile resources, such as www.uhc.com/transparency and www.guroo.com, that enable people to access health care quality and cost information, helping them to comparison shop for health care as they would with other consumer products and services. Nearly one third of Americans have used the internet or mobile apps during the last year to comparison shop for health care, up from 14 percent in 2012, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare Survey.
These resources are far more accurate and useful than those of past generations, and in some cases provide people with estimates based on actual contracted rates with physicians and hospitals, including likely out-of-pocket costs based on their current health plan benefits. Some resources also include quality information about specific physicians as determined by independent standards.
In addition to online and mobile resources, people can call their health plan provider to discuss quality and cost transparency information, as well as talk with their health care professional about alternative treatment settings, including urgent care and telehealth options.
These resources can help people save money and select health care professionals based on objective information. A UnitedHealthcare analysis showed that people who use online or mobile transparency resources are more likely to select health care providers rated on quality and cost-efficiency across all specialties, including for primary care and orthopedics.
In addition, the analysis found that those who use the transparency resources before receiving health care services pay 36 percent less than non-users.