(Bloomberg) – The Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) plans to post detailed health care price information on the Internet starting in early 2015.
HCCI, an industry coalition, hopes to use aggregated data from insurers to offer consumers a “reference price” for what specific health services typically cost in a consumer’s community, according to David Newman, the executive director of the Washington-based institute.
Customers of an insurer that participates in the program will get more precise information about prices, including how much a customer might have to pay out-of-pocket for a specific service, Newman said.
HCCI officials said the new program will combine details on commercial payments to health providers with data from the insurers’ Medicare and Medicaid plans, when possible. Data from other public and private insurance programs may be added later.
Three insurers – UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE:UNH); Aetna Inc. (NYSE:AET); and Humana Inc. (NYSE:HUM) – said they will send price data to the program.
Kaiser, which has been an institute partner, will not participate.
Two other large carriers – WellPoint Inc. (NYSE:WLP) and Cigna Corp. (NYSE:CI) – declined to be involved, representatives for the insurers said.
“While we fully support the concept of price and quality transparency for the industry, we weren’t able to get answers about the governance and operating costs of HCCI,” Jon Sandberg, a Cigna spokesman, said in an email. Until the company has full details on those issues, Cigna will not be participating, Sandberg said.
Insurers set up HCCI in 2011, in an effort to make data on private insurers’ costs available to researchers. In the past, researchers had to get most of the health care price information they used from government programs.
Newman said in a telephone interview that offering the price information to consumers is a natural next step for HCCI.
“The public has been clamoring for this,” Newman said.
Because the insurers’ data is proprietary and “commercially sensitive,” there will be limits on how the public can use it, Newman said. Unlike the Medicare data, for example, consumers won’t be able to see how much an individual insurer paid a specific doctor, hospital or other provider, or download all of an insurer’s payment data.