NU Online News Service, June 20, 2003, 4:49 p.m. EDT – U.S. Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans will spend about 15% more on improving information technology and customer service this year than they spent in 2002, according to the new edition of the Medical Cost Reference Guide published by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Chicago.

The Blues also will spend a little more on medical management, enrollment, billing and finance, but they hope to cut spending on sales, marketing, general administration, and provider services and contracting at least 5%, according to guide figures.

The Blues began publishing the cost reference guide in 2002 in an effort to shape the debate about why health care and health insurance costs are going up.

The guide includes information from many sources about the cost of hospital care, physician services, prescription drugs and medical technology.

The guide shows how efforts to cut one type of health care cost sometimes increase other types of health care costs.

In the hospital cost section, for example, the chart shows that the number of outpatient facilities has increased as the number of hospitals has decreased.

In the same section, another chart shows how efforts by Medicaid and Medicare to hold down their costs end up forcing up costs for private payers.

The Blues have posted a copy of the guide at http://bcbshealthissues.com/cost/costguide.vtml