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Nonprofit group, insurers planning more transparency in pricing

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Sergei Mordovin
Greater access improved uninsurance rates in many states
Greater access improved uninsurance rates in many states

One of the biggest problems that many consumers have faced in the last few years with regard to their health insurance coverage is that they often did not know what they were paying for, or how much their costs would increase from one year to the next. With this in mind, a number of major health insurers in the U.S. are now trying to do more to bring a greater amount of transparency to the ways in which these costs can affect consumers.

The nonprofit Health Care Cost Institute is now working with three of the nation's largest health insurers to come up with a way for consumers to look up data on the costs for various types of health care, according to a report from the Washington, D.C.-based group. As soon as next year, the online information portal will allow consumers to look up not only data on the cost of care, but also the quality of care. The program will be run independent of any insurance companies themselves, but will contain data on the policies those firms offer so that consumers can make more informed decisions about their coverage and care going forward.

David Newman, the executive director of the Health Care Cost Institute, noted that this could also be good news for regulators, because it will put all the data they might need in one spot, the report said. Interestingly, even though participation in the program is voluntary, it appears that a number of other major insurance companies which have not yet signed up are looking to do so in the future.

Why is this important for consumers?
The fact of the matter is that health insurance and care costs have risen dramatically in just the last four years, and will continue to do so in the future, the report said. It's believed that by 2020, health care spending in the U.S. alone will climb to an annual total of $4.7 trillion, an increase of 80 percent from the $2.6 trillion seen in 2010.

Consumers who have the ability to make more informed decisions in this regard will likely be able to save significantly, given the ways in which care costs have increased over the years. Insurers that help consumers to determine the best ways to save through greater transparency will likely be more successful in generating business and keeping current customers satisfied.

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