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Aetna Goes Public With Health Care Price Tag

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Aetna policyholders will soon get a better idea of out-of-pocket expenses for their medical services before they receive them.

The Hartford-based health insurer announced a pilot program Thursday that will enable consumers in parts of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana to access online costs for an estimated 600 procedures provided by 5,000 doctors.

In addition, consumers will have online access for actual discounted rates for 25 of the most common office-based services offered by their own primary care or specialist physician.

Aetna president Ronald Williams said consumers need simple and easier access to information.

“The biggest impediment to effective consumerism in health care has been the unavailability on relevant data on health care quality and cost,” Mr. Williams said.

The new program will supplement tools such as the Hospital Comparison Tool and “Rate Your Medical Professional” survey on Doc.Find. “Now, we are complementing those efforts by taking the lead on opening what is often perceived as the ‘black box’ on physician-specific pricing.”

Aetna believes that as more and more companies look to better manage their health care expenditures they will to see the final price before making any decision.

“Through this enhancement, Aetna members will see the actual discounted rates specific to their health plans for office visits, diagnostic tests and minor procedures,” Williams said.

The published information will vary based upon the physician’s specialty and will be expanded over time based on feedback.

A company news release said that because this level of detail was new to consumers, Aetna conducted focus groups with physicians and staff in the Cincinnati area and met separately with local and state physician societies.