News Feature | March 9, 2015

Health Care Cost Institute Launches Healthcare Transparency Tool

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

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Guroo helps consumers find cost information from insurers.

The Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI), an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization, has launched, a website designed to provide a healthcare cost transparency tool to consumers. Based on more than 40 million insured individuals’ claims over multiple insurance carriers, the site promises to provide information that no other source can provide, to deliver national, state, and local cost information for common health conditions and services, according to a press release.

The website is free and accessible to all consumers. The introduction of Guroo also sets the stage for other transparency tools to follow, and it allows consumers to search for average prices for 70 services across more than 300 hundred cities, 41 states, coastal California, and the District of Columbia.

“For many consumers, shopping for healthcare doesn’t feel like an option – it’s simply too complicated. Guroo intends to change this by showing consumers they can shop for healthcare and elect where they spend their healthcare dollars,” said David Newman, Executive Director of HCCI. “With rising prices and more consumers enrolled in high-deductible health plans, consumers are eager to get the best value out of every dollar they spend on healthcare.”

The initiative is a response to the fact that recently healthcare costs have increased faster than wages and health spending is projected to continue to grow – estimated at 6 percent per year through 2023. This means that consumers are looking for clear and accurate information in order to make their healthcare decisions as out-of-pocket spending also continues to rise.

Cost estimates are calculated from HCCI’s comprehensive health insurance claims dataset, which includes anonymous claims data on more than 40 million people nationwide from some of the nation’s leading health insurance companies. Currently, Aetna, Assurant Health, Humana, and UnitedHealthcare are involved in the initiative. All healthcare payers are invited to join the initiative and other insurers are expected to join in 2015.

“HCCI is going to use this data to ultimately create a national source of truth for consumers,” Tom Beauregard, executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group, told Modern Healthcare.

While the Guroo website was designed specifically for consumers, it will also have potential significance as a resource for employers, policy makers, and regulators who can now assess prices and how costs compare nationally and locally.

Despite the wave of price transparency tools and initiatives, useful price information for consumers and regulators remains out of reach in many areas of the country. “There's still a big distance between what you experience as an individual and the price you might have to pay and what ends up being disclosed,” said Francois de Brantes, executive director of the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute, told Modern Healthcare. State data is often difficult for consumers to access and understand.