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CA Department of Insurance

New online tool puts healthcare price and quality information in consumers’ hands

News: 2015 Press Release

For Release: September 21, 2015
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
New online tool puts healthcare price and quality information in consumers’ hands
Commissioner Jones taps Consumer Reports and UCSF to build first of its kind transparency tool

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, together with the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and Consumer Reports, announced today the launch of California Healthcare Compare, an innovative web-based tool that offers unparalleled quality and price information in a consumer-focused, easy-to-use website. Whether it's the cost of a knee replacement for someone living in San Francisco or the quality of care a woman preparing to deliver her first child in Los Angeles will receive, the new healthcare transparency website allows Californians to access and compare healthcare prices and quality ratings so they can make better decisions about where to seek medical care.

Commissioner Jones directed the California Department of Insurance to obtain federal Affordable Care Act grant funds to enhance transparency in healthcare pricing. Commissioner Jones then partnered with UCSF and Consumer Reports to create California Healthcare Compare (HealthcareCompare.insurance.ca.gov), a first step in achieving cost and quality transparency in California's healthcare marketplace.

A first of its kind in California, California Healthcare Compare allows consumers to compare hospital and medical group quality in the areas of maternity care, hip and knee replacement, back pain, colon cancer screening, and diabetes to help consumers make informed decisions about where to seek care. The site also reveals estimated regional costs for more than 100 different medical procedures or conditions ranging from appendicitis to prostate cancer, illustrating dramatic price differences depending on where you seek care. To enhance consumers' knowledge of the healthcare system, Consumer Reports provides expert tips and advice on how to navigate the healthcare system.

"The time for greater transparency for healthcare costs is long overdue," said Commissioner Jones. "Consumers have been in the dark about the price of medical services from one medical provider and facility to the next and certainly haven't had cost information paired with quality measures to help them determine where they will get the best value. Purchasing healthcare now is like shopping with a bag over your head. The Healthcare Compare website makes it possible for Californians to search for common medical procedures, to get average and a range of prices in their area, and to compare medical providers based on quality measures-before making the important decision about where to seek medical care. This is also a first step toward convincing doctors, hospitals, insurers and legislators of the benefits of sharing more detailed price information to allow consumers faced with high deductible plans to make better decisions about how to spend their scarce dollars."

Commissioner Jones explained the pairing of UCSF and Consumer Reports produced an easy-to-navigate site enabling consumers to mine a tremendous volume of data with context and expert advice.

"Consumer Reports sought out and incorporated feedback from thousands of consumers on issues of navigation and usability, resulting in a tool that makes complex data on quality and cost easy to digest," said Doris Peter, PhD, Director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center. "Choosing a doctor or hospital shouldn't be guesswork. By increasing cost and quality transparency in California, the tool gives consumers decision-making power that will ultimately drive marketplace change."

"This website would not be possible in most states, because the information simply isn't available," said R. Adams Dudley, MD, Director of UCSF's Center for Healthcare Value. "Because of the advocacy of California consumer and business groups and the vision of California's insurers and providers, we have much more information about quality of care than most states. Therefore, we can, for instance, tell a pregnant woman not only about the C-section rate at a hospital and whether she'll be allowed to try for a vaginal delivery if she's had a C-section before, but also what percent of women at that hospital learn to breast feed before going home and how often complications happen."

"We know there is wide variation in cost and quality across the state, and this program now allows each of us to better evaluate the doctors and hospitals available to us before we decide where to get care. It's a key step in the long journey to increased transparency for California consumers," added David Lansky, Chief Executive Officer of the Pacific Business Group on Health.

Media Notes:



The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $288 billion in premiums annually in California. In 2015 the California Department of Insurance received more than 155,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $84 million in claims and premiums. Please visit the Department of Insurance web site at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.HELP or 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.

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