A new health care pricing website shows Dallas is an expensive place for hospital care, while lab and imaging tests cost less than for other Americans.
Guroo.com was built by the Health Care Cost Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit that has collected more than 3 billion insurance claims for over 50 million Americans for research purposes. Aetna, Humana, United Healthcare and Assurant have provided records to the institute with patient names removed.
So far, the site includes the total cost for 78 bundles of care, from six visits with a chiropractor to mammograms and colonoscopies.
The institute’s price transparency tool differs from other sites like Txpricepoint.org because it shows what insurers actually pay rather than the high retail prices that hospitals and other providers routinely use in patient bills.
“We’re making the cost and quality of health care services available so consumers can make more informed choices on how they spend their health care dollars,” said David Newman, executive director of the Health Care Cost Institute. “Most Americans don’t realize the variation in cost that’s out there.”
Getting a knee replacement in Dallas, for example, prices out at an average of $45,436. The price includes hospital, surgeon, anesthesiologist and rehabilitation fees. The nationwide average for a knee replacement is nearly $12,000 less.
Rotator cuff surgery averages $11,532 in Dallas, while the national average is $10,702.
Getting tested for a strep throat, however, costs $15 in Dallas, while the national average is $17. A brain MRI goes for $705 in Dallas, while the nationwide average is $761.
Guroo.com does not provide information on individual hospitals or physicians. You can’t use the site to compare costs at Baylor University Medical Center against those at Methodist Dallas Medical Center.
Newman said that level of information would be available late this year or next, but on a different, members-only website involving insurers providing information for the project.
So far, none of the nation’s BlueCross BlueShield plans are participating. Newman said he would love to include them, particularly BlueCross BlueShield of Texas, the state’s largest health insurer.
To tackle rising health care costs, Newman said, consumers have to be more involved in seeking value.
“It’s difficult to get engaged,” he said. “One reason is the lack of information consumers had available regarding cost. There’s also a general perception that cost and quality are somehow associated. Numerous studies over the years have shown high prices do not necessarily lead to better care.