United Healthcare Rolls Out New Patient Price Calculator, Expectations
Patient price-shopping has driven headlines throughout 2012, and today, United Healthcare contributed to the conversation with the roll-out of its digital procedure cost estimator. Although the initial roll-out is only in 47 cities, the online tool eventually will be accessible to 14 million UnitedHealthcare members, who can use it to comparison shop some 240,000 providers by price or quality rating. myHealthcare Cost Estimator also offers personalized suggestions based on users’ benefit amounts and account balances, according to the program website: “This online tool provides more validated data than any other estimator of its kind. That's because the estimates used are based on available fee schedules or contracted rates and when fee schedules/contracted rates are not available, estimates are based on claims averages for the particular provider. Plus, it's fully integrated with customer service and clinical support so you can get the answers you need.” In addition to offering a calculator for out-of-pocket costs and physician locator tools, the site encourages patients to become more educated consumers. It instructs patients to self-advocate for “alternative treatment options that may be more cost-effective” while at the same time selecting “Premium program” doctors where available. As the Hartford Au Courant reports, other major insurers like Cigna, Aetna, and WellPoint (Anthem BCBS) also offer online pricing tools.