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HealthCare Checkup

The Seattle Times health-care team tracks the local impact of the Affordable Care Act.

Topic: transparency

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March 13, 2014 at 9:40 PM

New laws will help consumers find cheapest, best docs and hospitals

Consumers will have new tools for finding out what a trip to the doctor will cost before they take it, thanks to two bills passed by Washington lawmakers.

One will require insurance companies to provide customers with a tool for doing cost- and quality-comparison shopping, while the other creates a public, statewide database with information on quality, but limited price data.

Medical procedures can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars more at one clinic or hospital than another, but most people don’t realize there’s a huge disparity in price, or know how to find that information. Transparency advocates hope that if people easily can compare the prices of everything from a hip replacement to open-heart surgery, they’ll opt for the less expensive option, ultimately driving down medical costs.

“Your goal is to change people’s behavior. You want to show them this is what things cost,” said Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah. “People will start to be more engaged, and shop on price. It’s the only sector of the economy where people don’t know what things cost until they do the procedure.”

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Comments | Topics: All-Payer Claims Database, health insurance, transparency