By Christine Kern, contributing writer
New tool provides price transparency for financially-strapped patients.
As patients take on a larger share of their own healthcare costs despite the fact more Americans than ever before actually have healthcare coverage, the pressure is on to help find ways to reduce their out-of-pocket costs. Now, consumer healthcare company Amino has announced the release of a price-comparison tool that allows consumers to find free personalized cost estimates for 49 specific medical procedures.
The free service allows Americans to compare cost differences in their region and estimate what their out-of-pocket costs will be for experienced doctors based on their insurance plans. According to Amino, cost estimates are available across 550,000 doctors and 129 insurance providers through the “Find a Doctor” service and “Estimate Costs” research tool.
“Everyone deserves to know the facts that make a difference in healthcare, often our largest and most important investment each year, but gaining access to pricing information has proven incredibly difficult,” explained David Vivero, CEO and co-founder of Amino. “We’ve spend months surveying healthcare consumers and looking into the digital paper trail of healthcare within our database to help people answer not only ‘where can I get care?’ but also ‘how much will this cost?’ Knowing what’s been billed for specific procedures and specific doctors gives everyone confidence in a world where it’s nearly impossible to find out how much you’ll owe, until you get the bill weeks later.”
A 2014 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found the government was failing to make healthcare costs more transparent, leading to greater pressure for visibility across the healthcare marketplace. CMS also released new price transparency rules for hospitals as part of a 1,700-page regulation.
Greater price transparency was addressed by several policies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), based on the premise that a better-informed public would help reduce some of the irrational and sometimes hidden charges for healthcare procedures and services.
“It’s clear that greater availability of data on providers can not only help consumers make better choices, but also foster accountability among providers,” said Ashish Jha, Faculty Director at the Harvard Global Health Institute and Professor at Harvard School of Public Health. “Amino’s data-driven approach to health care transparency, and in particular its examination into the quality and costs of care, shows promise as a way to reveal high value care for consumers and providers alike.”
Amino launched in October 2015 and was recently certified by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to use national, physical level Medicare data as the first for-profit “Qualified Entity.” Additionally, it has also formed a Consensus Based Entity (CBE) approved by CMS to define new standards in health care quality measurement aimed at helping people make better health care decisions.
“The American healthcare system delivers miracles, but it also produces care of variable quality and backbreaking costs,” said Robert Wachter, MD, interim chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and a scientific advisor to Amino. “Part of the solution, undoubtedly, will be transparency: giving patients the information they need to make informed choices about the best doctor for their condition, and the best value. Amino is now offering patients an easy to use and robust tool that will help them make the best choices for medical care, for themselves and their family members.”