On Thursday, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina began posting prices online for hundreds of services and procedures to increase transparency and spark new discussions between providers and patients, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
The program allows BCBS members to calculate costs for medical procedures, prescription drugs, office visits and dozens of other outpatient and hospital services. As the largest insurer in North Carolina, BCBS' program likely will encourage other insurers or health providers to offer more information than currently available, the News & Observer reports.
The program will not release data on charges levied by specific doctors because BCBS decided it was more important to encourage doctors and patients to be more aware of costs, according to Don Bradley, chief medical officer for BCBS North Carolina.
Some insurance companies are not eager to disclose specific reimbursement rates that they have negotiated with every provider, and in other cases, releasing such information is barred by provider contracts, the News & Observer reports.
Steve Graybill, a senior benefits consultant for Mercer Human Resource Consulting, said it is possible that some consumers might see the cost data and consequently delay care.
Adam Searing, project director at the N.C. Justice Center's Health Access Coalition, said he thinks these types of programs are intended to deflect blame. "Sure, consumers have some responsibility, but you don't want to be sitting there with a calculator and some Web site trying to decide if you can afford an MRI," Searing said (Simmons, Raleigh News & Observer, 1/18).